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The Entrepreneur’s Magazine

Issue 27

The Future of Money With Gemini Founders Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss

INTERVIEWS WITH

Hannibal Buress Comedian, actor, philanthropist, and tech investor

Tobi Pearce Founder & CEO of SWEAT, the world’s largest female fitness community

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EDITOR’S LETTER

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hen I was 12-years-old, my family upgraded from dial-up to broadband. I vividly remember the silence that was usually taken up by the modem’s ringing, and the awe of being able to chat on AIM while my mom talked on the phone in the next room. To my pre-teen self, broadband was the apotheosis of information technology. Of course, this conclusion was absurd– although not as spectacularly misinformed as believing that sending ‘asl’ is a decent way to get to know someone. Setting the implications of my age aside for a moment, it wasn’t very long ago that we were in the throes of the analog-era Internet. Technology always moves faster than we realize. It doesn’t always make the world better, but it never fails to be a guiding force for change, as we’ll explore in this Future Cities issue. More than half the world’s population resides in cities, and the most rapid rate of urbanization is expected to take place between now and 2050 (PRB). The surge of city-dwelling, especially in developing countries, has made sustainable socioeconomic and environmental growth more critical than ever. We cover several innovative solutions to examine how tech can quell some of the problems plaguing urban life, reshaping the way we communicate, shop, work, and travel. We interview a company on the verge of revolutionizing traditional addressing systems and discuss the most striking example of urbanization–megacities. On the flip side, we

dissect more menacing technologies like deepfakes and discuss how forensic geneaology can alleviate the burdens of rising crime rates for investigators and law enforcement. In the cover story, we speak with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who hope to realize their vision for the future of money through their leading cryptocurrency exchange platform, Gemini. Having made waves in the space through their regulation-focused approach, they share more about this strategy with us, and what’s to come for the company and the industry. We also introduce a few new feature categories in this issue. Notably, the Startup Toolkit aims to equip founders with practical knowledge and takeaways. Readers can also enjoy a founding story that is sure to inspire, a photo story, and fiction, as we dive into dystopian literature and how it’s entwined in our cultural discourse. As always, we thank you for your support. Wishing everyone a lovely fall and happy reading.

Min Chen Editor in Chief Have thoughts about this issue? We’ d love to hear from you. Email us at [editors@jumpstartmag.com] and include your full name and email address. Please note that letters to the editor may be edited for length and clarity.

WWW.JUMPSTARTMAG.COM Unique content, press releases, directories, videos, and more.

MANAGING DIRECTOR EDITOR IN CHIEF

James Kwan

Min Chen

EDITORIAL ASSOCIATE

Nayantara Bhat

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

Anita Chan

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

Reggie Addae

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT FOUNDER / ADVISOR ADVISORS

Maggie Lau

Yana Robbins

Joseph Chow, Carman Chan, Shitiz Jain, Leo Ku,

Derek Kwik, Jeanne Lim, Prem Samtani JOURNALISTS IN RESIDENCE Jordan Lee, Daneesh Shahar INTERNS

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jumpstarthk

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Jasmine Alberts, Khadija Azhar, Kelly Cho, Sophia Li,

Rachel Niblett COVER PHOTOGRAPHY

Gemini

Jumpstart is available at over 1,500 locations throughout Bangkok, China, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Melbourne, New York City, Silicon Valley, Singapore, and Sydney.

Copyright © 2019 Jumpstart Media Ltd. The contents of the magazine are fully protected by copyright and nothing may be reprinted without permission. The publisher and editors accept no responsibility in respect to any products, goods or services that may be advertised or referred to in this issue or for any errors, omissions, or mistakes in any such advertisements or references. The mention of any specific companies or products in articles or advertisements does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by this magazine or its publisher in preference to others of a similar nature which are not mentioned or advertised. Published articles do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Jumpstart Magazine. Printed by Print & Print Pte Ltd. Blk 3011 Bedok Industrial Park E #03-2000, Singapore 489977. MCI (P) 110/03/2019. October 2019

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Left to Right: W3W, FLIPP Management / Stuart Miller, RISEConf

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Cover Story

As Gold As It Gets

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss discuss how Gemini is shaping the future of money

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TR END S

F O U N D E R S T O RI E S

RI S E CO N F 20 1 9

Be There and Be Square

Strengthening the Core

All Hail the Handsome Rambler

what3words’ smart addressing system arrives in Asia

How digital innovation made SWEAT into a fitness empire

Hannibal Buress talks tech investing, Melvina Masterminds, and the process of discovery October 2019

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FEATURES

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S TA RT U P T O O L KI T

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The Psychology of Pricing Everything you need to know to create the perception of price E CO SYS T E MS

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Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s Innovation Underdog A look at the country’s united effort toward digital transformation T RE N D S

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The Race Toward Autonomy A promising start but the finish line still some miles away CU LT U RE A N D S O CI E T Y

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Catch Me If You Can Exploring the use of genetic genealogy in law enforcement F I CT I O N

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Unraveling The Handmaid’s Tale Featuring an interview with Renee Nault about her adaptation RI S E CO N F 20 1 9

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Digital Solutions for Developing Communities Building fintech solutions for financial inclusion GUEST COLUMNS

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Looking Ahead as a Mompreneur By YVONNE LO A future city for my daughters

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The Future Arrives By CHIBO TANG Science fiction versus our reality in 2069 CONVERSATION STARTERS

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Cities of Tomorrow Logistics, hardware, agriculture, and the space economy LIFESTYLE BOOK REVIEW

Kevin Dharmawan

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh T V RE V I E W

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Love, Death, & Robots P RO D U CT RE V I E W

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SonarPen: The world’s most affordable smart stylus ET CETERA E V E N T RE V I E W

95 Impossible Foods

The STILE Initiative Information Night ONE LAST QUESTION

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What sci-fi gadget do you wish were real?

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CONTRIBUTORS

M A R T I N T O N KO

REGINA PERTIWI

CAN NGUYEN

PETER MAN

Martin is Head of Automotive Southeast Asia and a Partner at global strategy consultancy Roland Berger, where he focuses on automotive and financial services. Martin has a degree in Computer Science from Karlsruhe University and a Ph.D. in Engineering. Martin is working out of Singapore and Jakarta. rolandberger.com Read his feature on page 31.

Regina is a Content Marketer at Glints–an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform headquartered in Singapore. Based in Indonesia, she is a journalism graduate. Regina is passionate about creating high-quality content about the tech sector and recruitment trends for the digital age. glints.com Read her review on page 15.

Can has over ten years of experience working in international law firms and companies throughout the U.S. and Asia. At Anduin, Can leads a team of legal associates to advise the company on all legal matters as well as developing and creating legal content for the Anduin platform. anduintransact.com Read his feature on page 16.

Peter is the General Manager of Red Hat Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. He has more than two decades of IT industry experience. Previously with Novell and IBM, Peter has a proven track record in Hong Kong’s open source community and a strong reputation for building high performing teams. redhat.com Read his Quick Take on page 39.

I G N A C I O N . C A R VA J A L

N AYA N TA R A B H AT

PA R U L B H A N D A R I

REGG IE ADDAE

Ignacio is a micropreneur, blogger, composer, and the CEO of Digital Leaves and Your Company In Estonia. He frequently speaks about remote work at conferences such as Running Remote. Once a cubicle rat, he quit his corporate job and became a digital nomad. runningremote.com Read his feature on page 20.

Nayantara is the Editorial Associate at Jumpstart and Program Associate for The STILE Initiative. She studied Economics and Journalism at The University of Hong Kong. Nayantara is originally from India, but has lived in New Zealand, Indonesia, and now Hong Kong. nayantara@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 76.

Parul is the founder of Cresta Consulting, a firm that provides management consulting services for technology and digital transformation initiatives. She holds elite certifications in Six Sigma, Project Management, LEAN and Advanced Digital Marketing. crestaconsulting.co Read her feature on page 21.

Reggie is the Director of Marketing and Special Programs at Jumpstart. Prior to Jumpstart, he was the Marketing Manager at Global Sources. Reginald is originally from Ghana, and moved to Hong Kong because he wanted to be closer to the beaches. reggie@jumpstartmag.com Read his feature on page 18.

Y U K TA S H A H I

DANEESH SHAHAR

R ACHEL NIBLE T T

SOPHIA LI

Yukta is a third-year International Business student at the University of Hong Kong who’s passionate about innovation. Born in India and raised in Thailand, she identifies as a global citizen. In her spare time, the David Fincher fan can be found critiquing films and screenplays. yukta@jumpstartmag.com Read her review on page 95.

Daneesh is a senior at New York University Stern School of Business, studying Quantitative Economics and Computing and Data Science. He’s fascinated by the crowdsourcing model in shaping wide-scale employment, and the role tech plays in driving the eSports industry. daneesh@jumpstartmagazine.com Read his feature on page 24.

Rachel is a student entering her third year at Durham University, where she will complete a degree in English Literature and Politics. She spent a month interning at Jumpstart before returning to London, where she grew up. Her interests include travel, fiction, and film. niblett@durham.ac.uk Read her review on page 88.

Originally from Hong Kong, Sophia is a second-year Economics student at University of California, Berkeley. Although she is interested in business, she has a similarly strong passion for the field of biotechnology, and hopes to pursue the two disciplines in the future. sophia@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 47.

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3-Day Pass

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CONTRIBUTORS

Clockenflap RICHARD KER

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2019

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Richard is an innovation and tech ecosystem builder based in Cyberjaya near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has vast experience in the smart city and emerging tech ecosystems globally. He worked in Beijing for ten years, helping American and European businesses expand into Asia. richardker.com Read his feature on page 22.

Want to write for Jumpstart? Get in touch with us at [editors@jumpstartmag.com] to learn more about how you can become a contributor. Please provide at least one writing sample.

CAPTION CONTEST + GIVEAWAY How to enter: Email your caption to [info@jumpstartmag.com] with the subject line ‘October Caption Contest’ by midnight (GMT+8) on November 1, 2019. The winner will be contacted by noon on November 4, 2019. Must be 18 years or older to enter.

J ORDAN LEE

K E L LY C H O

KHADIJA A ZHAR

JASMINE ALBERTS

Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Jordan is a Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Management student studying at the University of Southampton. He is a classically trained pianist and is also passionate about startups, technology, and business development. jordan@jumpstartmagazine.com Read his feature on page 84.

Kelly is an Editorial Intern at Jumpstart who studies English Literature and Translation at The University of Hong Kong. She is also passionate about music, theatre, and tech. In her spare time, she enjoys attending concerts and exhibitions around Hong Kong. kelly@jumpstartmag.com Read her Quick Take on page 86.

Khadija is a third-year Economics and Finance student at the University of Hong Kong, currently working as an Editorial Intern at Jumpstart. While she spends most of her time searching for dogs to follow on Instagram, she also dabbles in writing and digital art. khadija@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 60.

Jasmine is a second-year Mechanical Engineering student at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She’s passionate about engineering and believes in the need to be well-informed about the world and being able to clearly articulate oneself. jjalberts@connect.ust.hk Read her feature on page 26.

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GUEST COLUMNS

Looking Ahead as a Mompreneur A future for my daughters By YVONNE LO

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’m sitting in a cafe at 4:30 pm on a Thursday, reviewing my 2019 calendar. It’s August in Shanghai, and I’ve been to more cities this year than I can recall. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I don’t take any of it for granted. If you asked about my five-year plan a few years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be traveling the world and passionately invested in my career while raising teenage daughters. Fast forward to now: I’m indulging in some much-needed caffeine, going over sales data to improve performance in yet another trade show city, and jotting down ideas for a guest column that’s due next week. It’s a welcome opportunity to take stock and think about what my life might be like in another five years, despite headlines declaring that we may not have much of a future at all. In a reflective mood, I came up with three visions that I have about the future from the perspective of a mom and entrepreneur. Looking ahead, it seems like the world will feel like one big city. What used to be faraway foreign markets are now easily accessible. Thanks to the proliferation of business tools, we’re able to work closely regardless of distance. Site visit in Cyprus? See you soon. Client meeting in Moscow? I’ll be there. I once had a client come up to me at a trade show in Las Vegas to say that he’s selling our products in Australia after he bought them from another customer in France. That’s just crazy to me. Our business opportunities grow as the world gets smaller. Of course, this reality also poses challenges. More potential markets also increase the competition, as we now compete against international brands in every part of the world. Customer service training and making sure the brand messaging is uniform across the board have become a part of daily operations. As we become more connected, using artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline everyday life will be a reality for even more people in the near-future city. Today, it’s already crucial to how I work and how my children live. Just how much data and personal autonomy we are giving up for this future remains to be seen, but it is undeniable that AI minimizes human errors, improves productivity, and saves us time and money. Time is an element that we will interpret entirely differently in the future. I can already see my kids doing a lot more in 24 hours compared to when I was their age. But will it be a cycle where we do more in less time, get more stressed, and then look for more tech applications to help us do more? For the sake of my daughters, I hope traditional intelligence wins in this case. In my last vision of a future city, the prevalence of women working in traditionally male-dominant industries will equalize. If public opinion stays on track, then race, gender, and sexuality will no longer be determinants for success. We have the scientific backing to support gender parity in and outside the workplace– now it’s time to implement it. As a working mom of two daughters, I aim to teach my kids to be independent, creative, and unbound by outdated social limitations. We are already well on our way to reaching this goal of 8

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inclusivity, as long as we can suppress the extremist views that are trying to hinder progress. There is still something tech and AI can’t conjure: empathy. As the world shrinks, grows, speeds up, and equalizes, all we can do is continue to appreciate and support our partners, families, schools, workplaces, and communities like we always have. If we manage to do so, we should be able to look confidently into the far future, beyond just five years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Yvonne studied in the U.S. and worked in the hospitality industry with focus on marketing and brand management. She co-founded audio tech company onanoff in 2015. Her experience as a busy, working mom helped her to build and expand BuddyPhones, the world’s most awarded kids’ headphones brand. oneandoff.com


GUEST COLUMNS

The Future Arrives Science fiction versus our reality in 2069 By CHIBO TANG

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t’s the year 2015. People are wearing size-adjustable clothes, teens are zipping around on hoverboards alongside flying cars, and families are gathering around rehydrated pizza for dinner. In the 80s, this scene was our view of the future. In the last decade, self-lacing shoes, biometric devices, drones, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) goggles, new forms of protein, and semi-autonomous vehicles have become a reality, leading us to realize: the future has arrived. While we may still be a ways away from uploading our consciousness to the cloud and using digital simulations to determine couples’ compatibility, we are inching toward living among lifelike robots. Using the contemporary tech landscape as a prelude, what does future-living look like in 2019? In a decade, our cities probably won’t look like what science fiction (sci-fi) makes the future out to be. But much like in Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, virtual gaming will find its boundaries blurred with real life. Sandbox VR is already pioneering immersive gaming experiences, where players can interact with each other in both cooperative and one-on-one modes. As AR/VR technology becomes more accessible, we can expect entertainment and information to be distributed in more interactive formats. Our boundless thirst for content also points to the likelihood that the future of work will include new occupations within AR/VR–similar to today’s professional YouTubers and live streamers. The content will be customized to the interests and preferences of each individual user. Let’s fast forward another 15 years to 2044. Cities are busy and roads are filled with self-driving cars. They aren’t flying through the air just yet, but are moving along in an orderly fashion. The development of autonomous driving technology has long been underway, but moves to restructure regulations and infrastructural frameworks took a significant amount of time before self-driv-

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ing cars became the norm throughout the world. Companies like Uber have had to keep up with the changes, shifting their business models away from a driver-centric platform. Advancements in mobility and logistics once made the gig economy model attractive to many, but the hype was short-lived since many of these tasks have now become automated. In 2069, 50 years from now, the health and medtech sectors are booming, especially relating to elderly care. Stem cell therapy, genetic diagnostics, and effective cancer treatments are now fairly standard. Life expectancy has drastically increased, and the workforce has taken a different shape as a result. While humans are no longer required in most manual labor jobs, they are still needed in research and development (R&D), creative, sales, and customer service roles, where the human touch has become a premium experience considering how digitized everything else has become. While it is impossible to predict the future entirely accurately, technology has entered an advanced enough stage to offer a less ambiguous indication of what the next 50 years will bring us. It may not be the future we see in movies, where space travel is highly accessible and integrated into our lives, but we do stand on the brink of technological breakthroughs and social changes that should give us hope.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chibo is a Partner at Gobi Partners China. He has been investing in early-stage companies in the tech and media sectors for over a decade and manages the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, for which Gobi is the General Partner. He has led investments for Airwallex, WeLab, Urban Revivo, DayDayCook, Aqumon, and Sandbox VR–to name a few. gobivc.com

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GUEST COLUMNS

The New Insurance Market How the rise of technology is shaking up the industry By MICHAEL CHAN

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t’s odd that the insurance industry has remained relatively unchanged since it emerged in the 1680s. Insurance is still mainly sold through human advisors carrying stacks of brochures and forms. The products are usually explained to prospective customers in coffee shops–a fitting setting, as London’s Lloyd’s Coffee House is often considered to be the world’s first insurance market. People working in the industry, including myself, take notice when we see new payment and lending companies pop up, raise significant funding, and start becoming a part of our daily lives. We then wonder when this change will spread to other financial services like insurance. We are slowly seeing insurtech growth across Asia. Asian insurers have spent US$35.2 billion on technological advancements as of Q3 2018 (Capco Digital). Last year, Thailand launched the Insurtech Centre of Thailand; Malaysia established a regulatory insurance sandbox to encourage innovation; and the Philippines announced a plan to increase digitization of the industry. In 2017, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Insurance Authority launched the virtual bank and virtual insurance license schemes to spur fintech development. According to a 2019 survey by Consumer Search Group, 64% of

Hongkongers intend to purchase insurance through one-stop, online platforms, yet the number of insurers who support digital channels is lagging. While other industries such as healthcare, customer service, and ecommerce have already integrated automation to enhance their businesses, insurance is just starting to play catch-up. By leveraging the abundant data owned by insurers, tech can disrupt the insurance journey and give customers a more affordable, transparent, and streamlined experience. Below are a few examples of how technology can shake things up.

Intelligent automation pplication and claim processing often take a long time, but they are steps that cannot be skipped. With the use of smart automation technologies, large amounts of data can be processed in a short time, more efficiently, and with fewer errors. In turn, applications and claims are issued much faster and at lower costs, improving customer experience.

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Gamification illennials have short attention spans and have little interest in lengthy, boring questionnaires, even when they are

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necessary for financial planning. By gamifying customer engagement, insurers can provide useful information and affect policyholder behavior for the better. During my consulting days at Seasonalife, we developed a simple experimental life expectancy calculator based on mortality data to estimate the effect of lifestyle and behavioral changes. We found that an average 30-year-old male Hongkonger, who does not smoke, can expect to live to 88 years. But this age could vary by five to 15 years with small lifestyle changes, such as drinking more than two glasses of alcohol a day, increased consumption of red meat, and getting divorced.

Healthtech earable tech and health apps are an up-and-coming trend, with the global wearable healthcare and medical devices market expected to reach $27.5 billion by 2026 (Reports and Data). Insurers can make use of these technologies by actively monitoring customers’ health, and becoming more involved in their well-being, rather than just being passive administrators of policies and claims. Better alignment of incentives across payers, providers, and patients will be one of the most critical challenges for the health and insurance industries.

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t is exciting to witness technology revolutionize the insurance industry, but the main goal for insurers should remain the same: to put their customers’ needs first and not lose sight of the impact of the human touch. We believe that insurance is, after all, an important social good that everyone needs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is co-founder and co-CEO of Bowtie, Hong Kong’s first virtual insurance company. He is passionate about using technology to reach underserved customers. Michael is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, a member of the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong and a holder of the Certified Financial Planner qualification. bowtie.com.hk

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GUEST COLUMNS

Welcome to the Real World How education will change during my career By ANDREW GEORGE

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hat I do as a teacher today will not resemble what I will do as a teacher 20 years from now. Current technological advancements and mindset shifts indicate that major changes are coming. Perhaps the most significant in the role of the educator will be in content delivery, which will be better designed and personalized to the needs of each student through AI. Such technology is already being tested and used in classrooms around the world. Electroencephalogram headbands that assess neural activity are helping teachers adjust course content. Overdrive’s reading app tracks student engagement and finds out what content interests them along with suggesting new reading material. While these developments still require the teacher to deliver content, China’s Squirrel AI is using adaptive technology to fully personalize classroom instruction, meaning AI is providing the course materials– not a teacher. AI can more accurately track a student’s progress compared to a teacher who manages a class of 25 or so, and who likely still grades papers with a red pen. AI can

Teachers will work with their AI companions to help students, focusing on human connections and relationships in ways software simply cannot. challenge students on their weak spots better than a human, provide content that genuinely interests them, and know when students are most engaged. AI-powered instruction will radically change education as we know it. Grade levels could effectively be eliminated; nothing holds back student development more than this structure. Only a slim minority of students in each class actually find standardized curriculums engaging enough to elevate their learning effectively. Improved data collection can help connect students with materials and collaborators who are more suited to their abilities and interests, moving them ahead at the most efficient pace. Getting rid of grade levels and traditional classrooms will provide more

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opportunities for collaboration. Teachers will lead the charge in this transformation by shifting to project-based learning. For instance, instead of having students write a paper on a historical event, they could create a documentary film, involving those who are interested in acting for the stage, students on a carpentry career path to build a set, and those in a marketing class to promote the event. Standardized testing will be labeled as utterly useless. Cognitive scoring will easily be assessed through software. There won’t be a point to test students through an exam in a large hall at a designated time despite some students’ performance anxiety, which is something that is rarely done in workplace situations As an educator, I’m embracing the opportunities AI-powered software will bring to schooling. Teachers will work with their AI companions to help students, focusing on human connections and relationships in ways software simply cannot. This relationship is the most crucial part of teaching today. However, it’s often viewed as a lower priority relative to delivering the curriculum. Advancements in edtech will free teachers to be more effective at fostering a love of learning. They will no longer be confined to classrooms; instead, these tools will allow students to apply what they learn in the real world. Achieving a balance between teaching knowledge and creating assignments for students to apply what they know is a challenge for education systems around the world. AI will allow teachers to implement this balance, improving student learning and in turn, society, for the better.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew teaches English and Film at Steinbach Regional Secondary School in Manitoba, Canada. He’s an award-winning filmmaker, having produced short films and broadcast documentaries. Andrew also worked as a freelance creative consultant, advising companies on marketing strategies and projects, and served as the Creative Director for Bizview Media. andrewjoegeorge.com

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CONVERSATION STARTERS

CITIES OF TOMORROW Recent market findings to tickle your interest

By KHADIJA AZHAR

1878 The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys. Sir William Preece Chief Engineer, British Post Office

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CONVERSATION STARTERS

SPACE ECONOMY LOGISTICS

15 PERCENT of deliveries for online purchases will be

delivered within the same day by 2025 (McKinsey).

45 PERCENT of operating costs would decrease if fully

autonomous trucks were used to transport consumer goods (McKinsey).

ONE-THIRD of manufacturing supply chains will have analytics-powered cognitive capabilities by 2020 — improving cost efficiency by 10% (IDC).

55 PERCENT of transport and logistics

CEOs are afraid that a skills gap within employees is affecting their ability to innovate (PwC).

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1932

US$3 BILLION of equity capital was invested in space

There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.

companies internationally in 2018 (Space Angels).

50 PERCENT of the space economy will be dominated by

Albert Einstein

communications activities by 2040 as the use of space-based technology for Internet infrastructure comes into use (Statista).

PERCENTAGE OF U.S. ADULTS WHO SAY THEY HAVE THAT PRIVATE SPACE COMPANIES WILL.... (Pew Research Centre, 2018) A great deal of confidence A fair amount of confidence Not too much confidence

No confidence at all Did not respond

Make a profit for their companies

44

Build safe and reliable spacecraft

26

Control costs for developing spacecraft

17 5

41

23 13

14 4

51

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Research to increase knowledge of space Minimize human-made space debris

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26 47

35

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AGRICULTURE HARDWARE

10 PERCENT of hardware venture activity comes from

plant-based foods (Ipsos).

53 PERCENT of machinery is currently produced in the

is expected to come from higher yields and increased cropping intensity (FAO).

university startups (OUP).

Asia-Pacific region, as opposed to 28% twenty years ago (McKinsey).

1998 By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s. Paul Krugman Nobel Prize-winning economist

54 PERCENT of consumers are trying to consume more

63 percent of executives believe it will be critical over the next two years to leverage custom hardware and hardware accelerators to meet the computing demands of intelligent environments (Accenture).

US$9 BILLION was invested in hardware by VCs in 2017, while software investment was 3 times that number (OUP).

90 PERCENT of the growth in crop production by 2050 COSTS AND BENEFITS OF A MEATLESS FUTURE (CB Insights) Water Use (Gallons) 1799 324

Land Use (ft2) 260 2.6

Carbon Footprint (Emissions in pounds) 16 3.52

Cost (Dollars) 1.05 12

Animal Meat (1 lbs) October 2019

Lab-Grown Meat (1 lbs)

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STARTUP TOOLKIT FEATURES

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team, so everyone is on the same page. Don’t forget to measure communication, ability to empathize with clients, and other soft skills using your scorecard. These traits are just as crucial as a developer’s ability to ship codes. Scrap whiteboard questions Many companies like to write pieces of a problematic algorithm on a whiteboard and ask the candidate to reproduce a bugfree version of it. The issue with this strategy is that most of the questions are taken from the web or from popular interview books like Cracking the Code Interview. Also, asking candidates to work under stress, and in a short time frame, does not reflect real work scenarios, and you may lose the right hire with this approach.

Hiring Top Tech Talent for Your Startup By REGINA PERTIWI

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ecruiting top tech talent is always a challenge. According to Glassdoor, it requires on average 52 days and the screening of 120 candidates to fill one vacancy. This problem is particularly costly for startups, as many are racing against time to deliver a product and don’t have the resources to meet their hiring needs. To help make this task less daunting, we will address some common pitfalls and best practices with regards to tech hiring.

Sourcing tech talent Make it a team sport Many startups don’t pre-screen tech candidates for cultural fit even though it’s essential to do so, especially with the early employees. Lack of cohesion could result in what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner calls a ‘cultural debt’ within your team. Ask your other tech employees to refer topof-the-funnel candidates, as they know who among their professional connections would best complement the team culture. Use your professional network HackerRank’s 2018 Tech Recruiting Report shows that around 60% of developers are open to new opportunities, but are

not actively looking. ‘A-Players’ are likely working at leading companies already, so outreach is required to find hidden talent. Start a conversation and hire them when the timing is right. Our top picks for tech talent pools are AngelList, GitHub, Dribbble (for UI/UX developers), Sourcing.io, Xing, and–of course–LinkedIn. Build a tech talent pipeline Firstly, the hiring manager must understand the specific tech stack requirements of the vacancy for the startup to build a pipeline of qualified candidates. Tech hiring is a funnel game: the more candidates you have in your pipeline, the better off you’ll be. Our internal data shows that sourcing 25 resumes will convert to one confirmed hire, which can be taken into account when evaluating your pipeline.

Making an offer and onboarding or startups, the ideal candidate should hit the desk immediately and start shipping codes. Unfortunately, this timeline doesn’t usually work for A-Players, but there are ways to speed up the process.

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Reference checks Ask for at least three references and have the candidate set up the reference checks for you. It’s best if the reference can offer a 360-degree view of the candidate, so it should be someone like the tech lead or a person the candidate reported to directly. Be sure to press them for red flags by asking about the candidate’s weaknesses.

Screening interview You should conduct screening interviews to eliminate candidates who are not passionate about the position, even if you’re hiring for a tech role. A ten-minute screening call to gauge how well the candidate knows your company and an experience check will do the trick.

Equity and vesting If your employee count is under ten, you should consider offering 0.5 to 1% of equity to your first tech hires, especially if you believe they are vital to growing the company (does not apply to a tech co-founder). When your company grows to 11 to 50 employees, it is not uncommon to see senior developers being offered up to 0.2% of equity. It is essential to look into cliff and vesting to ensure your early employees are motivated to stay with your company for at least three to four years, unlocking portions of their equity shares over time.

Interview scorecard It’s tempting to commit to a candidate because you ‘hit it off ’ with the person during the interview, but the candidate may not fit well with the team. To objectively evaluate the candidate, keep a comprehensive scorecard with metrics that are agreed upon by all members of the tech

Align with business needs Many startups let tech talent focus exclusively on shipping codes. It is imperative to make sure that all the members of the tech team also understand the business side, as they need to design the scalable architectures that accommodate for future growth. Regina is a Content Writer at Glints.

Process-driven practices

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Five Major Risks of Poor Cap Table Management

two must be accounted for and resolved to the satisfaction of the venture capitalist (VC) and their lawyers. The larger the discrepancies, the more time (and hence, billable hours) it will take the lawyers to review the documentation. As one can imagine, cap table issues will not be looked upon kindly by investors, and the resulting legal bill will drain your capital.

By CAN NGUYEN

Hiring quality candidates

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hat is a cap table, you ask? Short for ‘capitalization table,’ it represents all transactions involving a company’s ownership, including stock issuances, sales, transfers, cancellations, conversions of debt to equity, and exercises of options. As a company takes on more investments, its cap table can become very complicated, very quickly. Cap table management is the constant updating of ownership information, which involves legal documents and transactions a company enters into as it grows, regulation compliance, and keeping shareholders abreast of any changes. Asia is rapidly catching up to Silicon Valley in terms of startup growth. China is already the most popular destination for venture capital funding (Asia Times), and Bain & Company reported that the number of venture deals in SEA quadrupled between 2012 and 2017, from 126 to 524. The same report noted that private equity deals in SEA were valued at US$15 billion in 2017. These figures are projected to continue on their upward trajectory, with analysts suggesting that there’s plenty of ‘dry powder’ remaining. Startup founders in Asia need to be prepared when investors come calling, so having the capacity to deal with your cap table is a must, saving you from five major issues.

Impaired decision-making ithout an accurate and up-to-date cap table, it’s impossible to make reasonable judgments vital to the future of your company. Time is of the essence when deciding how many shares to give to a potential hire, whether a financing offer should be accepted, or how much of your company to sell in a financing deal.

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Hefty legal fees hen you meet with investors about funding, one of the most critical topics is the current state of your cap table. Investors have their lawyers review and reconcile the information contained in the documentation. Any discrepancies between the

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ypically, most senior-level hires in startups receive equity as part of their compensation package to supplement their often slightly below-market salary, and to incentivize them to work harder for the company’s success. The available employee stock option pool will play a huge role in determining how much equity to award a potential employee. A solid handle on the company’s cap table will be needed to make these determinations, especially as equity allocation usually involves board approval. If this information is incomplete or incorrect, board approvals could be delayed or even rejected, which will affect your ability to hire quality candidates.

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Distribution of proceeds ou may have started your company with the noble intention of making the world a better place through an innovative solution. But once a company is incorporated and investors are added, discussions about the eventual exit must inevitably be entertained. Your cap table will help determine whether or not a deal should be accepted and how much you and your fellow shareowners will make from the exit, whether it’s an initial public offering (IPO) or acquisition.

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Losing a financing deal or startup founders, one of the most devastating situations is losing a financing deal. Without an accurate cap table, it’s impossible for investors to know how much of the company they would own. This consideration is arguably the most important for an investor. Besides, having an accurate cap table is a reflection of your management and financial ability.

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s you scale, knowing your numbers is vital for the success of your company. After all, if you can’t keep track of your cap table, then investors are going to ask themselves whether you can be trusted to run and build a unicorn. Can is the Legal Lead of Anduin Transactions.

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STARTUP TOOLKIT FEATURES

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PRICING Price is merely a perception. Our brain remembers prices as either being high or low, rather than specific numbers. But how can you create this perception? By Reggie Addae Artwork by Fred Hammond

“All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.” LEONARDO DA VINCI

Fix a small magnitude You can influence people’s perceptions so they remember your prices to be lower.

SALE $ 29.99

For sale prices, reduce the leftmost digit and make the second half ‘99’ to reinforce the smaller magnitude. Example: Change $30.00 to $29.99 or $50 to $49.99. People perceive prices as lower when they have fewer syllables.

$28.16

Example: $28.16 (five syllables: twenty-eight sixteen) is preferable to $27.82 (seven syllables: twenty-seven eighty-two).

$1499

Example (only applies to some brands): Free shipping for an item that costs $18 feels higher than a $15 item with a shipping cost of $2.99.

15

+ $2.99

60

% OFF

$19.99

Reframe prices into their daily equivalences. $0.49 a day

Example: Instead of saying ‘$14 a week,’ say ‘$0.49 a day’ or ‘for as little as the price of a cup of coffee.’

only

$749

Fluency Fluency helps customers process information faster, activating their brain’s reward center, and leading them to associate your prices with positive feelings. When you reveal the price matters.

$50 0

If you show the product first, people base their decision to purchase on the product’s qualities. However, if you show the price first, people base their decision on the economic value of the price.

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Be precise with large prices. Example: $749 is perceived to have more value than $750.

$19.99

$29.99

Directional cues can influence price perception. Customers are likely to respond faster to low prices when they are on the left, but only if they are indeed low. Position high prices on the right. $ 24

Expose customers to two multiples of your price. Example: Four small pizzas with up to six toppings for only $24 (4 × 6 = 24). Three medium pizzas with up to eight toppings only $24 (3 × 8 = 24). For custom quotes, tailor your prices to names and birthdays, following the principle of egotism.

Show men prices in red.

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However, discounts should be displayed in large font sizes to emphasize their significance.

Position low prices toward the left.

Example 2: Remove cents for emotional purchases ($19) and add them for rational purchases. ($19.50).

Men base heuristic decisions on color. Showing them the price in red diminishes their ability to process other attributes of your product.

Display prices in a small font size to reinforce the low magnitude.

$9.99

Example 1: For luxury goods, show the product first. For utilitarian goods, show the price first.

$29.99

Example: Set the price as 1499 instead of 1,499. Fourteen ninety-nine (five syllables) sounds lower than one thousand four hundred and ninety-nine (ten syllables). If you charge shipping, be sure to separate the shipping price from the list price.

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$

$

Remove the comma from your prices to reduce the phonetic length.

$49.15

Example 1: Use a price with fifty-five for someone named Fred or Frank. Example 2: Use a price like $49.15 for someone born April 15.


STARTUP TOOLKIT FEATURES

Price loss

Price Anchors Expose the customer to a higher incidental price to increase the anchor. Show the customer a product you sell that is more expensive, so they anchor the price at a higher price point. Alternatively, show them a higher number. Example: To set a higher price anchor, show the number of customers near your price: “Join 2,387 happy customers for only $49.” OLD

$ 39.99

NEW $ 19.99

When introducing new products, raise the price of old products to increase the reference point for new product pricing.

Motivating people to buy Customers feel two types of pain when buying things:

Quality loss Expose the customer to a higher incidental price to increase the anchor in terms of quality. This method anchors a higher reference point. If I think a beer is $10 as opposed to $4, then I’m willing to pay more for it because my point of reference is higher. Using this method, customers see each lower price as a loss in quality and will buy higher-priced goods. Low to high – Price loss High to low – Quality loss

Use numbers to emphasize the product’s value. “Our coffee beans are great quality”

(i) The saliency of payment: We feel pain when we see money leave our hands.

Charge customers before they consume. Shift the focus to related aspects of time rather than the payment. Emphasize the enjoyable time people will have with your product.

When prices are the same, people examine products more closely to find the differences. Adding a slight price difference makes them think the products are similar.

$19.99

$29.99

Change!

$799

SALE PRICE

NEW SALE PRICE

$899

Position sales numbers to the right.

$29.99 OLD PRICE

$50

It’s easier for us to subtract when the sale price is to the right. Customers can calculate the discount more quickly, increasing its magnitude. However, if your discount is not very substantial, place it on the left. Offer discounts at the end of the month.

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People’s budgets are lower at the end of the month, which is called the ‘bottom dollar effect.’ Paying pain is made worse by the depletion of funds, making discounts more effective at the end of the month. Offer free trials at the beginning of the month when budgets are high.

NEW PRICE

$999 5%

Provide a reason for the discount. Example: Using a holiday as a reason prevents people from using the discounted price as a reference point in the future.

10 %

Example: 5%, 10%, and 20% are more straightforward to compute than 27% or 13%, so they have a more significant impact.

SALE PRICE

OLD PRICE

10% $15 $90

If the price is $999 and you reduce it to $799, add one more discount level at $899 before raising your price back to $999 again. This strategy leads to higher revenue and a more willingness on the customer’s part to pay. Offer discounts that are easy to compute.

$122 $133 GET

Call it ‘balance,’ ‘credits,’ or just make up a name for it.

2%

20% 2%

Avoid terms related to money.

Phase out discounts over time.

OLD PRICE

$999

Discounts SALE PRICE

“Our coffee beans are great quality” is less appealing than “Our coffee beans are 100% organic.” People respond better to numerical evidence of value in marketing messages. Use slight price differences, so people don’t scrutinize and look for differences.

(ii) Timing of payment: We feel pain when we pay after we consume. How do we use this to our advantage?

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GET

$125

SALE PRICE

$2

Offer discounts with low right digits. Low right digits are numbers below five; 23 to 22 is seen as having a higher value than 19 to 18. Give percentage discounts when the price is under 100 and numerical discounts when it’s over 100. Only give discounts on low priced products, not high-end premiums or luxury products. October 2019

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Running a Remote Team By IGNACIO NIETO CARVAJAL

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ast year was an intense year for me. My startup grew from one micropreneur to a team of seven remote employees. This journey led me to realize that there are few resources out there to help with this transition, so I want to share the lessons I’ve learned with entrepreneurs who are in the same situation.

Virtual assistants and freelancers elegating is not easy, especially as a micropreneur. Your startup grew thanks to your hard work, high standards, and attention to detail. The problem is, you now have more work than you can handle. However, you’re reluctant to find help because your previous experience with a hiring platform was a disaster. Sound familiar? When entrepreneurs look to hire someone for the first time, most will turn to platforms like Upwork. But freelancers who use these websites often lack the level of skill and commitment you need, as most only moonlight a few hours a week as a side hustle. My advice is to start local. Contact human resource agencies from countries and industries that are relevant to your market and needs. Don’t be afraid to ask around in your network or the staff at your co-working space. Also, don’t be stingy. You can get a remote developer for US$3 an hour, but trust me, the results won’t match your expectations. In terms of management, it’s important to be patient. You can’t expect a freelancer to produce the same results that took you years to achieve. Explain every process and detail of your startup, even the obvious ones, and expect some mistakes to be made in the beginning.

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Communication tools and task management ou take communication for granted when all your employees work from one office. You can go to Jack’s cubicle and ask

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him about the progress of the new website’s design anytime. Jack is always there, a cup of coffee in hand, working on his designs. Things get complicated with a remote team. Firstly, you need to take time zones into account. If Jack lives in Chiang Mai and you live in Buenos Aires, then Jack is waking up when you are about to go to bed, and vice versa. Multiply this complication by the number of people in the company, and you realize how big of an issue it can be. You also need to define the right communication channels for your team. There’s a division between remote entrepreneurs on whether it’s better to use synchronous communication channels (i.e., video or audio conference) or asynchronous ones (i.e., email or instant messaging). In spite of attempts to kill it, email is still king. Email clients such as Spark [sparkmailapp.com] can help you use it smartly. The key is to find the right balance. If your company is small or primarily conducts one-to-one meetings, video conferencing tools such as Skype [skype.com] or Appear.in [appear.in] will be enough. Zoom [zoom.us] or Webex [webex.com] are also great options. Tools like Calendly [calendly. com] make it easy to schedule appointments. When your meetings involve more people, tools such as Doodle [doodle.com] may come in handy. It allows you to publish a poll with tentative dates, so everyone can choose the option that works best for them. Some companies and teams work well with chat-based tools, such as Slack [slack.com]. I’m not a big fan of them because they can be procrastination rabbit holes. Task and project management tools come in all shapes and sizes, from complex applications such as Jira [atlassian.com] or Microsoft Visual Studio Tools to more straightforward ones like Trello [trello.com], Task Ninja [taskninja.com], and Todoist [todoist.com]. I prefer the latter group due to their simplicity. he transition from being a location-independent micropreneur to managing a remote team can be a daunting experience. But not only is it achievable, it could very well be the step that’s needed to accelerate growth and take your startup to the next level. Ignacio is the CEO of Digital Leaves and Your Company In Estonia.

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STARTUP TOOLKIT FEATURES

‘Zero Waste’ and Process Efficiency for Gaining and Retaining Customers By PARUL BHANDARI

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You have probably heard of setting SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, but I am advocating the idea of SMART-S goals, which also includes the ‘support’ of senior executives, the board, team leaders, and staff. This support means pushing ‘down’ and applying effective goal-setting and prioritization to all levels of the organization. Once the goals are set, next is understanding the customer through the Six Sigma Methodology, which encompasses: Voice of the Customer (VOC) and Critical to Quality (CTQ). Gathering VOC can be done using free tools like SurveyMonkey or putting together a small focus group. Apply the 80:20 rule, which is the idea that 80% of the effects (problems) of your product result from 20% of the causes. By gathering a good understanding what is CTQ to the customer, you can focus on improving and standardizing the 20%.

Lean focus aving worked in the change management and process transformation space for over a decade, I have repeatedly experienced the value and benefits of the ‘Zero Waste’ method. Waste in an organization can be classified as defects, overproduction, transportation, waiting, inventory, motion, and processing. Each of these issues, if not managed or occurring in excess, will result in irrecoverable losses of time and resources. Defects are the worst type of waste, as all the resources have already been spent, and are again required for the rework. Tungsten Network surveyed 400 firms and found that they lost a total of 6,500 people hours per year due to inefficient processes in their supply chain. Adopting a ‘Zero Waste’ method is the first step to identifying where the waste is occurring, and its reduction can then be quantified in hours or the number of people, money, and resources saved.

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Managing change and standardization he practice of ‘unlearning’ decrepit methods of working is one of the key elements to thriving in a constantly changing business environment. With any new system or people-related transformation, adapting to ideas and processes needs to be deliberate to enable a culture shift for all staff. While change is a great first step, sustaining new processes requires effort to keep them updated, streamlined, and standardized, ensuring the customer receives the same high-quality product every single time. Tools like control charts can be used to assess whether a process is in ‘control’ (has less variance) or ‘not in control’ (has variance or outliers). A control chart is a series of measurable data points (e.g., quantity, time stamps, number of calls) recorded over time. With these metrics, we are able to identify the causes, such as certain times of day when variances occur, allowing us to resolve non-standard steps that lead to defects. For instance, General Electric helped Subaru improve their process efficiency and uptime by 300% after implementing predictive analysis tools, which include real-time data, genealogy, and tracking throughout the plant. Standardized processes should also be established with regulatory and compliance requirements in mind. In the case of an external audit, a company that practices the above productivity and standardization methods can be more self-assured about being compliant. Parul is the Founder of Cresta Consulting.

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nformation and data are readily available in today’s business landscape and we have countless organizational tools at our disposal. But where do startups begin if their aim is to have an operation with growth plans that are adaptable to changing market demands and new technology? We typically consider company revenue and growth to be of utmost importance. Productivity and standardization are overlooked and sometimes even undervalued, though they lay the foundation for returning customers and a healthy cash flow. Below are ways that entrepreneurs can begin elevating the productivity of their startups.

Goal-setting and prioritization

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eticulous and timely goal-setting, in addition to prioritization, result in less reworking and increased productivity.

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FEATURES ECOSYSTEMS

Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s Innovation Underdog A look at the country’s united effort toward digital transformation By RICHARD KER

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alaysia is a rising star in Southeast Asia’s (SEA) technology sphere. Without homegrown unicorns, we’re not as flashy as Singapore or Indonesia, but we pack a punch. According to the 2019 Global Innovation Index, Malaysia ranks only behind Singapore on its list of the most innovative countries in SEA, coming in 35th globally and number one for several trade-related variables. To meet the demands of a growing digital economy, the country plans to nurture its tech talent by expanding its developer pool by 20% by 2024 (IDC). Malaysia is also one of the first countries in the world to take on the herculean task of implementing 5G. None of these advancements have been a coincidence. You could say that our digital revolution has been in the works since as early as 1996 with the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). 22

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Cultivation from the top

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n a show of foresight, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad set up the MSC during his previous tenure more than two decades ago. It was imperative that the innovation hub, which spans from the Kuala Lumpur city center to the international airport, cultivated the best possible environment for multimedia and tech companies to thrive. Mohamad’s tenure also saw him prioritize digital infrastructure, implement tax breaks, and establish the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), which is an advocacy agency that still drives entrepreneurship and innovation to this day. Cyberjaya is the nucleus and beating heart of the whole operation. Characterized as a cyber citadel, it sits at the center of the MSC and is adjacent to Putrajaya– the administrative capital. Now that Mohamad is back in office, steps are being made to refresh Cyberjaya’s

The country has all of the right ingredients, but stakeholders must continue their efforts to help Malaysia to live up to its potential. role in the country’s economy. It no longer stands by the ‘Malaysian Silicon Valley’ label and is striking out to establish its own presence. The township’s claim to fame was being Malaysia’s first cybercity, but it now has a new goal of becoming a global tech hub.

The startup ecosystem is following suit

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he shift toward a more global mindset is not a phenomenon exclusive to Cyberjaya. Today’s Malaysian entrepreneurs are more conscious about building platforms and products that will appeal to users across the region, rather than zoning in on the domestic market. Industry 4.0, sometimes referred to as deep tech, is taking root in the ecosystem too, encompassing trendy technologies like AI, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, AR/VR, cybersecurity, and smart manufacturing. Malaysian Top: Malaysia’s cyber citadel, better known as Cyberjaya, is located in Kuala Lumpur. Right: An aerial view of the Wilayah Mosque, which is also located in Kuala Lumpur.


ECOSYSTEMS FEATURES

Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar noted that the organization’s accelerator, Global Accelerator Programme, has seen more applicants that are providing Industry 4.0 solutions in recent years, especially on the enterprise side. This trend will only escalate once Malaysia executes its virtual banking license framework, which will allow the startup ecosystem access to entirely digitized banking processes.

Malaysia’s melting pot

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here’s a strong SEA tech hub potential in Malaysia. We have drawn the interest of tech giants like Face-

book and Google, which have set up shop on the MSC strip. Our economy is stable, our workforce is fairly well-educated, and our currency is competitive. But what truly makes Malaysia the ideal SEA tech hub is diversity. Malaysia is home to a highly varied blend of cultures, with people living in metropolises to jungles. These factors make Malaysia an ideal market to gather diverse data or test the potential success of a product or solution for the entire region. Meanwhile, Cyberjaya serves as a testbed for innovations that can be deployed globally. Currently, self-driving cars are being tested, along with drone and robotics delivery, and many other AI-based applications.

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A turning point for the economy

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rucially, corporations are also beginning to prioritize digital transformation; most now view it as imperative to remaining competitive. Businesses that have failed to digitize are already losing out on revenue, impacting the country economically. It’s predicted that over 21% of Malaysia’s GDP will be digitized by 2022, driving an estimated US$82 billion in IT-related spending in the same timeframe (IDC). As for the labor force, the number of self-employed people has grown by 31% to surpass the size of the conventional workforce, which is likely fueled by the growing gig economy (Employees Provident Fund). Since the country is at a critical turning point, it’s important to contend with an increasingly urgent trend that may cause digitization efforts to come crashing down.

The funding gap

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alaysia has a relatively high number of VC firms, but there is the concern that their funds aren’t going into early-stage startups. Less than 1% of venture capital went into early-stage startups last year, compared to Singapore’s 67% (MaGIC). As a result, some have characterized Malaysian VCs as too riskaverse. This issue has potentially prevented us from producing unicorns, as around 90% of the existing unicorns received funding from the get-go (MaGIC). Fortunately, Malaysian startups are getting more international attention and there are now other funding avenues, such as equity crowdfunding. There is also more awareness around government-backed financing schemes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which can apply to startups as well.

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combination of public initiatives, strong entrepreneurial spirit, and high smartphone penetration–at around 76% as of 2017–has put Malaysia on a valuable digital path (MCMC). The country has all of the right ingredients to become an innovation hub, but stakeholders must continue their efforts to help Malaysia live up to its potential. It will be some time before we can catch up to top dogs like Singapore and China, but Malaysia is no small player. I firmly believe that we are on the cusp of something big. Malaysia may be the underdog in SEA’s ecosystem right now, but like many underdogs, we’re scrappy.

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The Other Megacity How technology can better the lives of the less privileged residents of megacities By DANEESH SHAHAR

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or centuries, cities have been beacons of hope for the disenfranchised. Newly freed African Americans flocked to New York City in the late 1820s following the abolition of slavery, and millions from all over Europe migrated to Britain’s manufacturing cities during the Industrial Revolution in hopes of riding the wave of prosperity. These cities were important economic drivers and served as backdrops for intellectual and cultural movements like the Enlightenment and the Harlem Renaissance. Megacities today are not too different from industrial London and 1820s New York in the people they attract and the opportunities they offer. But much like their earlier counterparts, they are fraught with socio-economic problems. A megacity is defined as an urban agglomeration with over ten million inhabitants (UN DESA). The problems megacities face are not unique; however, the sheer scale of their populations exacerbates them to a Dickensian degree. Dilapidated neighborhoods, crime, and poor sanitation are only a few of the symptoms caused by overpopulation, and strained infrastructure and resources. Enter technology. Shenzhen, a Chinese megacity with over 12 million residents, is leading the way in tech-driven urban management. It has installed cameras in every public space, from parks and highways to the airport, capturing an estimated 700 million data points per day (Asia Times). The data informs ways to manage crowded stations better, keep traffic bottlenecks to a minimum, and quell criminal activity. In an almost Jetsons-inspired move, the city has even commissioned plans for drone highways, relegating future self-driving cars to underground tunnels. Shenzhen is shaping up to be an ideal home for futurists, but

tech can’t be credited for all of the city’s success. In 1980, the city was promoted to a special economic zone, granting it the ability to form preferential policies relating to taxation, land use, and business autonomy to attract foreign investment. Eight years later, it was declared a ‘separate city’ by Beijing, meaning it could implement policies that deviated from the national plan at the time.

A different megacity

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t comes as no surprise that capital and political freedom make the building of a well-managed megacity much easier. But what if this were not the case and a city is without tech solutions? The growth of megacities is trending to underdeveloped and developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America; these megacities typically face the same problems without possessing the same means of finding solutions (Euromonitor). Even more troubling is that fact that megacities are not always the best performing cities economically. It turns out that cramming millions of people in an area designed for a population half its size doesn’t bode well for infrastructure maintenance and logistical efficiency. Traffic congestion is synonymous with cities like Mumbai and Jakarta; commuting, transporting raw or finished goods, and finding space for manufacturing are all negatively impacted by logistical inefficiencies. The outcome of this severe congestion is businesses opting to relocate their factories and offices to fast-growing, more efficient middleweight cities, where the populations are between 150,000 and ten million. According to a McKinsey report, middleweight cities like those in West Bengal in India and Foshan in China are part of a 440-city cohort that will drive half of the global GDP between 2015 and 2025. This situation leaves many megacities with the troubling prospect of having to host massive populations without being supported by rapid economic growth, leaving their hopeful residents with much to be desired. Sadly, the bleak predictions made by scholars and futurists in the early 2000s about the quasi-dystopian conditions of future Above: Huts occupied by the unemployed in Manhattan around the time of the Great Depression. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library. Left: The bustling city of Shenzhen. Photo courtesy of Denys Nevozhai. Right: The slums of Medellín, Colombia, which has a population of around three million (Quartz). Photo courtesy of Kobby Mendez.

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ECOSYSTEMS FEATURES

megacities are turning into reality. Wealth disparity in these urban areas is aggravated by the automation of low-skilled labor jobs and an increase in high-skilled roles, leading places like Lagos to raze entire neighborhoods in favor of luxury waterfront high-rises. Nowhere is the wealth gap more apparent than Mumbai, where the ultra-rich live in multimillion-dollar skyscraper homes while the majority of the city’s residents are left dwelling in slums. Life is imitating art in how our megacities reflect the tragedies portrayed in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner; the rich escape into their lavish penthouses above the clouds and the poor are forced to live on the crime-infested city surface.

Connectivity as a way forward

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ortunately, there is hope for the less privileged megacity. Technology can help these cities improve–maybe not in the grandiose ways it has in Shenzhen–but in more modest forms that empower the residents. The most immediate benefit technology can bring to the other megacities is connectivity. In Nairobi, the mass adoption of M-Pesa–a mobile-based banking service launched by Vodafone in 2007–revolutionized how Kenyans interacted with money. The service, which is compatible with the most basic mobile phone, enables peer-to-peer money transfers, deposits, withdrawals, and even micro-financing through loans. It gave individuals who didn’t have access to banks the financial independence to run a business from their homes, receive payment for informal work, and pay for virtually any good or service. By 2015, 18 million Kenyans had an account on the payment service, with M-Pesa managing 20% of the country’s GDP. The experiment is a testament to how transformative technology can be for cities like Nairobi. But technology can go much further to aid the underprivileged in megacities. The natural next step in connectivity, after SMS-enabled services, is Internet-based connectivity. Internet access presents a plethora of opportunities in education, business, and community-building. In the most impoverished areas of the Tambora slum in Jakarta, Dharavi slum in Mumbai, and Orangi Town in Karachi, connectivity can be a way to grow local marketplaces and coordinate community-led initiatives. In 2017, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay installed 30 Google beacons, or WiFi hotspots, in marketplaces throughout Dharavi–the largest slum in Mumbai with over one million residents. The beacons advertised the goods available in nearby shops to help those with mobile devices better understand what was being sold in the area. Beyond this function, shopkeepers used the Internet for WhatsApp, Google searches, and video chats. Although it wasn’t stated whether the beacons led to an increase in sales for the shop vendors, it was clear that the utility the Internet provided was beyond what the researchers had intended. Google’s beacon project is a pilot test of the effectiveness of connecting urban settlers to the Internet. This program, if proven viable, could help Google onboard more users for its services and thus more consumers of its ads. Presumably recognizing the user growth potential of mass urban connectivity for their platform, Facebook has launched their version of a free internet program titled ‘Facebook Connectivity.’ Likewise, Jio, a subsidiary of the Reliance conglomerate in India, offers extremely affordable mobile plans, which led to them signing on 252 million subscribers in two years. Although not born out of altruism, the positive effects of these mass urban internet connectivity projects cannot be understated.

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That said, getting the most marginalized residents of megacities online is only one step toward greater economic equity.

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nternet access for the underprivileged in megacities has the promise of becoming the great equalizer, but simply being connected isn’t enough. The user’s capabilities play a major role in how they engage with the Internet, so illiteracy, for example, could severely dampen the benefits this access could bring. Social norms and other systemic barriers could also lead to exclusionary digital growth in megacities; for example, even with access to a smartphone, a woman is 12% to 14% less likely than a man to use the Internet (Pathways Commission). Understanding the conditions needed for a holistic engagement with the Internet leads us to recognize that more has to be done to better position the less-privileged for success. Former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim once said, “[We] must continue to connect everyone and leave no one behind because the cost of lost opportunities is enormous. But for digital dividends to be widely shared among all parts of society, countries also need to improve their business climate, invest in people’s education and health, and promote good governance.” Ultimately, bettering the lives of the less privileged cannot be wholly achieved by technology. Even with the increased equity that the Internet promises, the circumstances that constrain the disadvantaged will continue to exist. Technology alone doesn’t offer the solution because a singular solution doesn’t exist. What it takes is a conscious and persistent effort from governments, startups, NGOs, large corporations and the people themselves, all collaborating and unified by the goal of turning their megacity into a place for everyone. Daneesh is Jumpstart’s Journalist in Residence.

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The Real Deal with Deepfakes Understanding deepfakes and their commercial applications with Modulate.ai By JASMINE ALBERTS

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eepfakes,’ a portmanteau of ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’, is used to describe fake media (Google Deeptrace). The use case that is making the most headlines is video, whereby one person’s face is superimposed onto another’s, making someone appear as if they said or did something that they didn’t. Vice was among the first to report on this technology in December 2017, which has since garnered mainstream attention. Awareness of deepfakes spiked in 2018, with Google searches increasing from a global average of 100 searches per month to 100,000 per month (Deeptrace). Fake video content has been around as early as the 1920s, where filmmakers would produce dramatized fakes of natural disasters in the studio to sensationalize newsreels. With the emergence of deepfakes, creating ‘fake news’ is as simple as the click of a button. The accessibility of the software–often available for free and Below: In 2018, comedian and director Jordan Peele, together with Buzzfeed, uploaded a deepfake video of President Barack Obama warning viewers about fake news media.

requiring no coding skills–has prompted its widespread production.

Let’s get technical

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hile the concept behind deepfakes has early roots, the AI-driven application has only recently materialized. In 1959, Arthur Samuel pioneered the idea of ‘learning via competition’ through the development of the Samuel Checkers Player Program. It’s an algorithm that learns to play checkers by using two competing neural networks– similar to the biological neural networks in the human brain (AI Magazine). The two networks, the ‘forger’ and the ‘detective’–or in some cases, the ‘generator’ and the ‘discriminator’–try to outwit one another in order to improve or ‘learn.’ This system is known as ‘generative adversarial networks’ (GAN), which is what developers believe gives an AI traits that resemble an imagination (MIT Technology Review). In the case of video content, images are stored in a dataset that both networks will reference. A facial recognition algorithm is

then used to extract the required details of face A to be overlaid onto another image, face B. The generator produces an artificial output with face A in place of face B; the discriminator compares the output with the original images of A and attempts to distinguish the real from the fake. Based on the results, the generator adjusts its parameters to create a newer, better fake. Then, the discriminator attempts to determine whether this new image is fake. This process is indefinitely repeated until the discriminator can no longer distinguish the real from the fake. Although relatively new technology, GANs have developed quickly. In May of this year, researchers at Samsung demonstrated a GAN-based system that can produce videos of someone speaking after being given only a single photo of the person.

The good and the bad

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he term ‘deepfakes’ has been heavily tarnished for its most infamous applications in creating scandalous fake videos of celebrities, which end up on pornography sites and garner thousands of views. More than 8,000 videos of this kind were identified on adult sites in 2018 (Deeptrace).

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A Reddit user under the pseudonym ‘deepfakes,’ who is credited with coining the term, is known for being the first to create this type of content, consequently sparking interest and further development efforts in the Reddit community. Revenge porn, defamation of politicians through ‘fake news,’ and blackmail are ways that this technology is being harnessed. However, it’s not inherently malicious and innovative startups are developing it for commercial purposes. Modulate is one such example. Founded in 2017 by two graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Modulate creates synthetic media or machine-generated media–a subcategory of deepfakes. Instead of fake video content, Modulate develops fake audio using similar GAN technology, providing its users with ‘voice skins’ to enable them to speak with the voice of their favorite character or celebrity on gaming platforms. After releasing a few pilots, the company is excited about the positive response it has received from the gaming community and its potential applications. “If I know that I want to sound a certain way and if I don’t have the skills or the biology to make it happen, being able to use a tool to help me express myself more fully, I think is an incredibly power-

Photoshop has been around for a while. We found a way to integrate that into common knowledge, and we found a way to start handling the idea that our photos might be faked. ful thing,” says Modulate Co-founder and CEO Mike Pappas. Many tech leaders today would agree. Facebook AI Research Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun is equally optimistic about GAN technology, calling it, “the coolest idea in deep learning in the last 20 years.”

Stakes are high, a response is crucial

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ommercialization hasn’t completely assuaged fears about the potential harm the technology could bring. Deepfakes have caught the attention of politicians due to their potential threat to security. U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio likened the technology to the modern equivalent of nuclear weapons for its ability to create fake content that could

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threaten an election. It’s undeniable that our notions about the authenticity of the media we consume daily are being challenged. In response, the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched a media forensics program to study ways to counteract fake media; in particular, how to better identify the subtle distinguishing features of the fake from the genuine. The U.S. has also introduced the Deepfakes Accountability Act. If passed, it would make crafting malicious deepfake content a punishable offense. Currently, such actions do not constitute a specific crime and have been prosecuted under harassment, identity theft, cyberstalking, or revenge porn charges. Companies like Modulate are well aware of the ethical considerations of their technology and have taken steps to ensure that fabricated audio can be distinguished as fake. “We can build in this watermark that detects when synthetic speech is Modulate-generated versus real human speech,” says Modulate Co-founder and CTO Carter Huffman. He explains that since Modulate is synthesizing voice, they have fine-grained control over the exact frequencies used and even minor changes in timing of speech. October 2019

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work with you to build this voice skin, as opposed to finding some of their audio and copying their voice without their permission,” says Huffman.

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The company can then create a recognizable pattern–or watermark–without actually changing how the speech would sound

Think really deeply about what it is that you want to build and how it is that you want to change society.

to the human ear. Pappas also notes that efforts to find technical interventions are a focus and priority for other companies in the space, and that he’s encouraged by the collaborative efforts he’s seen. “There are several [companies] that we’ve spoken in-depth with, where we were actually sharing information and trying to trade back and forth to improve each others’ approaches to this,” he adds. Modulate’s efforts in the gaming industry are rooted in the fictional context of the technology’s application, which also helps to inform users about fake audio. In other words, Pappas predicts that an “immune system” toward fake content will develop in society over time, although education is still needed. “Photoshop has been around for a Left: Left to right–Modulate Co-founder and CEO Mike Pappas, Co-founder and CTO Carter Huffman, and VP of Audio Terry Chen. Right: Pappas and Huffman with the company’s Research Software Engineer Brendan Kelly. Photos by Terry Chen. 28

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while. We found a way to integrate that into common knowledge, and we found a way to start handling the idea that our photos might be faked,” he says. With many users requesting celebrity or politician voices, Modulate seeks permission from the relevant party before creating a voice skin. The reciprocated benefit to the celebrity or politician is that they can use the voice skin to further build their personal brand or popularity, especially if its use is outside their typical demographic. “Part of our strategy is going to these people who have desirable voices that people might want and saying, Hey look, we think this is a cool application, we want to

he possibilities for Modulate’s technology go far beyond the gaming realm and into areas like audiobooks and movies. One narrator could potentially have a dozen voice skins, one for each of the different characters. Also, dialogue lost during filming could be easily re-recorded by someone else via the use of a voice skin, saving production time and the efforts of actors, sound engineers, and other staff who would otherwise have had to go back to set. Looking ahead, Modulate is excited by the potential applications of its technology that the team has yet to consider. Huffman says that users often make suggestions about how it can be used. “Everywhere someone uses voice for any reason, there’s going to be a reason to want to customize it, to want to have more control,” adds Pappas. With deepfake technology rapidly growing and evolving–where harmful applications are developing alongside commercial ones–Pappas believes that entrepreneurs wishing to enter this space should know what they ultimately want to accomplish. “Think really deeply about what it is that you want to build and how it is that you want to change society,” he says. Jasmine is Jumpstart’s Editorial Intern.


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The Race Toward Autonomy A promising start but the finish line still some miles away By MARTIN TONKO

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here was a time when automakers worldwide were pushing the boundaries of how quickly they could realize autonomous driving technology. Various prototypes were developed and tested. Will autonomous cars have a steering wheel? Will the driver and front passenger seats resemble an airplane cockpit or a living room with a giant screen? But as the world moves toward the autonomous era at a greater velocity, innovators are starting to realize the need for a more measured approach. Initial innovation in autonomous driving is well underway, although the technology’s safety still needs to be assessed. Companies in the industry are more conscientious than ever, thinking seriously about what is technologically feasible and socially appropriate in the coming years. As the industry pursues the driverless car dream, it is worthwhile to unpack the work that goes on under the hood.

Automotive disruption is not just autonomous

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utonomous driving will profoundly transform global transportation along with three other waves of disruptive technologies, namely mobility, connected cars, and electrified vehicles. These four key industry trends are often abbreviated as MADE. While companies have achieved viable solutions for mobility, connectivity, and electrification, autonomous driving still remains in its early stages. Mobility: The sector is maturing The world has seen substantial progress in mobility over the past few years. The ride-hailing fleets of companies such as Uber, Didi-Chuxing, GO-JEK, and Grab are dominating the roads. As the market matures, some form of regional consolidation is starting to take shape. In China, early innovator Uber relinquished its foothold to local competitor Didi-Chuxing. A similar scenario occurred in SEA, where regional player 30

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Grab gained majority control of the market at Uber’s expense. In terms of investment, many agree that venture financing in mobility tech has moved past its peak. Connectivity: Well beyond the pilot stage Like future cities, future vehicles are poised to be smart and connected. They will be equipped with software-based digital solutions, ranging from GPS tracking and speed control to accident recognition and vehicle diagnosis. Today, connected cars already represent more than half of new vehicles sold globally; by 2025, virtually every new vehicle sold is anticipated to fit this description (Roland Berger). Connected vehicles are already impacting the automotive supply chain, due in part to high consumer demand. Electrified: Growing across all categories The automotive industry has embraced vehicle electrification to some degree. As it becomes mainstream, no successful automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) brand can afford to not explore, launch, and market a fully electrified vehicle. Maturing battery technologies, falling manufacturing costs, rising fuel prices, and consumer demand have all made electrified vehicles a compelling option that can’t be ignored. Autonomy: A promising start To date, the industry has only achieved a limited form of autonomy in very defined domains and no dominant system design for autonomous vehicles has been found. VC investments in complementary AI technologies are still growing and have yet to peak, meaning there are vast opportunities ahead. In terms of governance, no government has regulation in place beyond vehicle testing. On the safety front, autonomous vehicle insurance products haven’t been developed. Commercialization is unlikely in the foreseeable future, and the overwhelming consensus is that the industry is still in its infancy.


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Early days for driverless technology

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hile the race for autonomous technology is very much alive, will the world see a breakthrough soon? Of the many different real-world scenarios to be tested, the industry is paying close attention to one critical and extreme use case: urban city roads with pedestrians. A breakthrough will only arrive when the technology is reliable and safe enough to be licensed for operation in these complex traffic situations. Once the first license is extended, large investors will likely rush in, bringing the technology into markets across the globe. Today, the technology is still confined to testbeds in defined ranges and road conditions, and it must advance further to do away with safety drivers. For autonomous vehicles to scale, a specific suite of technologies must also improve, one of which is computing power. Intelligent autonomous cars need to sense and adapt to real-time driving conditions, requiring a computing speed of at least 10.0 gigahertz (GHz). As a reference, the average processor speed for desktops is currently 1.5 to 2.5 GHz and 1.0 GHz for laptops (Lehigh University). Other interdependent technology enablers include sensor miniaturization, signal output quality upgrading, and multi-sensor signal processing. They must be enhanced to limit the garbage-in garbage-out effects of information processing. Algorithmically, autonomous vehicles will eventually be infused with AI systems, which provide the underlying technologies to link system reasoning to regulation, namely pattern recognition, semantic segmentation, and deep learning. As such, existing limits of AI affect what is possible for autonomous driving. Once this bundle of technologies improves and becomes explainable, it will provide the basis for legal discussions in court cases. Autonomous cars need to reliably function using standalone vehicle-mounted sensors as exclusive data sources, anytime and anywhere. 5G can enhance performance, such as enabling constant vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure signal communication for increased stability and convenience. However, fully autonomous vehicles need to show that they can be independent and not reliant on 5G or other systems that they cannot control. In light of this fact, market-readiness is not expected to happen before 2025.

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A tale of accountability, financing, and governance

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uppliers of the automotive supply chain are accountable to the probability of their product going rogue. When technology fails, suppliers have to cope with the fallout of vendor recalls, which often result in high insurance payouts. Autonomous vehicle suppliers will be no exception. Consequently, they will need to set aside a significant amount of capital to prepare for the liability posed by component failures. The rise of autonomous vehicles is closely intertwined with AI system development, which is still primarily dependent on VC financing into startups. AI needs to migrate to large enterprise players with deep capital reserves, be it through mergers or acquisitions. Large automotive OEMs, mega suppliers, and tech giants have the scale to cope with the obligations of a vehicle launch. Since startup funding is still on the rise globally, market consolidation around key major enterprises will likely happen in the more distant future.

Of the many different real-world scenarios to be tested, the industry is paying close attention to one critical and extreme use case: urban city roads with pedestrians.

Licenses will only be granted if vehicle compliance with regulation can be proven. In practice, only a few nations have tinkered with regulating autonomous driving technology. The U.S. Department of Transportation has started a dialogue for ‘Autonomous Vehicle 3.0’ guidelines that will clarify R&D parameters. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has similarly published ‘National Standards for Autonomous Vehicle Testing.’ Singapore has issued ‘Technical Reference 68,’ which will inform the regulation of autonomous vehicles at some point in time. That said, vehicle testing is still the focus and many more assessments will be needed before governments can arrive at a October 2019

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comprehensive regulatory framework for autonomous products.

Out with the old, in with the new?

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he autonomous era is already in motion and it is worthwhile to look beyond 2025. How will the actors in the industry respond when autonomous vehicles arrive? The potential is enormous. Once a dominant autonomous vehicle design is found, the success will drive rapid commoditization of the technology. At that stage, cautious players who are late to the

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game or have limited R&D budgets will look to procure autonomous driving functionality as a system, mainly via turnkey solutions from large suppliers or other owners of the technology. Overall, the autonomous vehicle industry will likely see value creation happening on the perimeter, meaning that business opportunities will arise around passenger convenience, auxiliary infotainment, or efficiency of travel. For instance, tech giants such as Google and Baidu have the long-term inclination to control and monetize the environment of a passenger in transit. An autonomous car will be char-

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The AI and Mobility Singularity The impact of autonomous driving By JIANXIONG XIAO

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he rise of logistics and delivery platforms has revolutionized the gig economy, but with more and more countries facing problems around aging populations, labor shortages will become a critical concern in the coming decades. According to the World Economic Forum, U.S. labor force participation is expected to keep falling until 2024, even though it’s already near its lowest level since 1977. Labor demand already far exceeds supply. In major Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing, it’s increasingly difficult to hail a cab. Mobility, on the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) side, is heavily reliant on human resources and is therefore profoundly affected by rising labor costs. Just as the Internet democratized access to information, I set out to democratize transportation by making autonomous driving technology just as accessible. This technology is paving the way for a next-generation automobile that will be one of the most transformative advancements of this century. As self-driving cars fill the gap left behind by the shrinking Above: AutoX’s grocery delivery service. Photos courtesy of AutoX. 32

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acteristically similar to a smartphone or a smart TV, becoming a gadget to engage consumers during a significant portion of their waking hours.

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ow else will autonomous cars transform roads and businesses? Who is accountable for the safety of autonomous vehicles? These are real questions that need to be answered as the industry moves beyond its early stages. This race toward autonomy will be consequential; cars of the future will no longer look and feel the same. Until then, one can only marvel.

workforce, the economy will start to follow suit. Individuals will no longer buy cars to drive them, but as an investment to meet their city’s logistical needs. Soon, people will be able to join the gig economy without having to show up for the gig itself. Our concept of distance will also change, as our full attention is no longer required for driving. Demand for parking spaces will also drop, as cars can drive back to designated parking areas, saving car owners parking fees at malls and offices. AutoX is the world’s first company to have developed xUrban, a Level Four autonomous driving system dedicated to handling China’s downtown driving scenarios. Our vehicles can navigate swiftly through heavy downtown traffic at night, in bad weather, and throughout the busiest areas of Shenzhen. The development of urban autonomous driving is highly complex due to the shorter timeframes for sensors to make decisions about speed and navigation, especially compared to long-haul drives. But there is a crucial need to perfect this type of autonomous driving for the future success of the technology. Last year, we launched the world’s first autonomous grocery delivery service in California. We have found it to be an effective way to educate consumers, easing them into the adoption of autonomous vehicles through delivery before becoming passengers themselves. While the technology is coming close to a truly autonomous application, the missing pieces lie with governing bodies and their efforts to pass legislation regulating its use. Once this legal hurdle has been overcome, it won’t be long before driving out of necessity seems like a distant memory. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jianxiong is the founder and CEO of AutoX. He has over a decade of experience in the fields of computer vision, autonomous driving, and robotics. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, later joining Princeton as an Assistant Professor, where he founded its first Computer Vision and Robotics Lab. autox.ai


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Integrating, Validating, Accelerating The role of the accelerator in a startup’s validation journey By NAYANTARA BHAT

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critical step in a startup’s journey is validating its product or solution. Doing so can be tricky for very early-stage companies, as it involves proving that a product will be successful without producing it on a large scale–a tricky task for a lean startup. This is where startup incubation and acceleration programs like Eureka Nova come in, fast-tracking the growth of promising early-stage ventures. There is no generally-accepted how-to guide for validating a business model or a product, but some elements of the process are essential no matter the context. While different practitioners advocate different stepping stones (from starting a crowdfunding campaign to conducting individual interviews with potential users), the message remains clear: make sure there’s a problem in the market and make sure your product is solving it. There’s also no shortage of accelerators; in Hong Kong, 26 such programs are listed on the website of StartmeupHK, an annual tech festival held in the city. Accelerators play a key role in helping startups to consult with the right people and providing

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them the resources needed to better understand their markets. Accelerators like Eureka Nova–founded by Adrian Cheng, New World Group Executive Vice-Chairman and General Manager–have an edge when it comes to testing startups’ market viability, as they have large, established businesses to support startups with mentorship and product testing. It’s also a win for the established companies, as there are often opportunities to improve efficiency or services using a startup’s innovative solutions. “New World Group is dedicated to creating a diversified ecosystem through Eureka Nova for entrepreneurs and change-makers who are going to shape the future through innovation and tech,” says Doris Luey, New World Group Head of Social Innovations. As a part of New World Group–a cultural enterprise leader with businesses spanning property development, infrastructure, services, retail, and hotels–startups applying to Eureka Nova have no shortage of opportunities to test and refine their products. Over the past two cycles, Eureka Nova has overseen 20 such integrations between startups and its business units, including Kalon, a 3D mobile scanning and virtual fitting platform incorporated into K11 Art Mall, and SnapPop, a tool enhancing tourists’ experiences on the Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars. “We appreciate the opportunities to integrate our applications with different business units of the New World Group,” says Leo Lau, co-founder of SnapPop. “This is essential to our product development and business growth.” The program’s strong regional partnerships also highlight Eureka Nova’s growth as an active player in the Hong Kong startup ecosystem. Most recently, in partnering with Japanese financial institution Mizuho Bank, the program’s area of influence has grown to encompass Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area, and Japan. Named Mizuho Crowd Brain in honor of the new partnership, incubatees of the program will have access to validation opportunities through the business arms of New World Development, Mizuho, and both organizations’ corporate partners. “We’re excited to announce our partnership with New World Group and Eureka Nova to power Mizuho Crowd Brain,” says Masayuki Sugawara, Managing Executive Officer, Head of East Asia of Mizuho Bank. “We envision a program that successfully allows us to connect with startups who share the same passion for business innovation [...], by pulling together resources from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Japan under the two corporations and their supporting organizations.” Mizuho Crowd Brain will celebrate their launch at K11 Atelier, located in the global art and design landmark Victoria Dockside developed by the New World Group. eurekanova.com Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Editorial Associate. Top left: The New World Tech Day facilitates business integrations between startups and New World Group. Bottom left: The Kalon Couture app allows users to take a one-time body scan to create a perfect-fit garment for the same price as readyto-wear. Bottom right: A perfect application of AR at the Avenue of Stars, carefully curated by the New World Group and SnapPop, to give a new highlight to the signature tourist spot.

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Be There and Be Square what3words’s smart addressing system arrives in Asia By MIN CHEN

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hen Jumpstart sat down with what3words (W3W) CMO Giles Rhys Jones at ///interacts. dormant.nutrients, he was about to fly to ///supplied.depended.bedrock to support the company’s recent expansion in Asia. This sentence may sound confusing, but it won’t be the case for long–according to W3W’s plan, that is. Founded in 2013, W3W is a geocoding system that divides the world into 57 trillion three-meter-by-three-meter squares, whereby each square is given an identifier, or ‘address,’ made up of three dictionary words. Frustrated by the logistical difficulties of getting bands to gigs on time as a talent manager, W3W Co-founder and CEO Chris Sheldrick came up with the idea of creating a mnemonic system that allows for the accuracy of longitude and latitude coordinates without the impossible-to-remember string of numbers. Sheldrick immediately recognized that his solution to error-prone street addressing systems had endless applications, and began to develop W3W with his co-founders: serial entrepreneur Jack Waley-Cohen and Mohan Ganesalingam, who is a researcher and mathematician. In six years, the London-headquartered

company scaled to a team of over a hundred, recently raising £40 million in its Series C round with investors including Intel, Deutsche Bahn, SAIC, and the Sony Investment Fund.

Our aim is to cover the entire population, so everyone can use what3words in their native language.

W3W’s core technology consists of a proprietary algorithm and database with a file size of around ten megabytes. The company’s primary revenue generation comes from the B2B side, where it licenses its code to over 1,000 companies in the automobility, travel, ecommerce, and logistics industries. They include Cabify, Airbnb, Domino’s Pizza, and Aramex, to name a few. The uncrewed aerial vehicle and geographic information system industries have also shown interest in the precision that the system offers; commercial drone

developer Hylio and geodatabase management company Esri are using W3W’s application programming interface. On the B2C side, the company operates a free app that can be used offline. The public sector has been looking to W3W for improving the addressing system. In the case of Mongolia, which is now one of six countries to officially adopt the system, W3W worked with governing bodies to develop a Mongolian version after meeting their representatives at the World Economic Forum. “They have a vast country–very nomadic, and with a lot of informal settlements. [W3W] is accepted by the postal service and the leading banks there. Lonely Planet just released their latest guide to Mongolia, and every single listing has a three-word address,” says Jones. The W3W team is also well aware of the addressing system’s relevance in the fields of emergency response and humanitarian aid, where location accuracy is crucial. The technology is offered to nonprofit organizations at zero cost and the company announced in March this year that it has introduced the system to several police forces and emergency services throughout the United Kingdom. In a Tweet dated July 6, the South Yorkshire Police [@SouthYorkshirePolice] stated: “Yesterday one of our call handlers used @what3words to successfully locate and dispatch officers to a man who had fallen down a railway embankment in #Sheffield [...]” In December last year, W3W worked alongside HumanTech Innovation Lab and the Community Development Centre to build its technology into refugee settlements in Uganda. Rhino Refugee Camp and its 116,000 inhabitants are now able to navigate the camp’s homes and facilities more efficiently. “We are being built into a hundred thousand pound Mercedes-Benz, but on the flip-side, we’re being used in slums to address people, so they can get lighting systems,” says Jones. “The applications are phenomenal.” As W3W’s use cases continue to expand, the company is directing its attention to growing its footprint globally. A milestone in its Asia expansion efforts is Left: The W3W app, which is free to download and can be used offline. Top right: A few three-word addresses that are located in New York City Bottom right: W3W has been adopted by the Mongolian government as its official addressing system. Photos courtesy of W3W.

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the system’s integration with South Korea’s leading superapp Kakao, as it marked W3W’s first collaboration with a major mapping platform, KakaoMaps. The company believes that such partnerships are integral for increasing mindshare in new markets. “If I wanted to meet you somewhere, I could send you the three-word address of precisely where that is, in English or Korean,” says Jones. “The whole idea is that we would be built into apps and services.” W3W is currently available in 36 languages, each of which is developed as a separate product. As one would expect, the process is by no means straightforward. The connotations associated with certain words are often complex and nuanced, which is why W3W works closely with a team of professional linguists. For example, swear words are omitted and alcohol-related words are not included in the Arabic version because they can be culturally insensitive. Every new version also requires unique features to be built into W3W’s error-detection system. Firstly, homophones, or words that sound the same but are spelled differently, are removed. Also, words used for urban areas are easier to remember, and locations with similar words are placed further apart to avoid potential miscommunication. Jones uses the example of ///table. chair.lamp, which is located in Australia. Left: W3W CMO Giles Rhys Jones. Right: A three-word address located in Gorkhi Terelj National Park. Photos courtesy of W3W. 36

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If the user accidentally types ///table.chair. damp, it will be immediately evident that the three-word address is incorrect because the square is located in the U.S. He notes that error prevention will be even more important as voice-first interfaces become commonplace. “If I get into my car in London and say, take me to Church Road, the car will respond: there are fourteen Church Roads, which one do you want to go to? Then, it has to read out every single one of those Church Roads just for me to say, option three. That’s why car companies really like us. I can get into my car and say, ///apple. banana.spoon, and it goes, got it,” says Jones. W3W is already being used in navigation systems for Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, and the company partnered with Mercedes-Benz for its China launch in April this year. The luxury automobile brand, which owns 10% of W3W, has built the addressing system into all of its A-class models. An important market for both companies, this launch signals their intent to refine the technology for Chinese speakers as the country’s car ownership continues to increase from the 300.3 million registered licenses already on the road (Ministry of Public Security). “It was critical for us to bring this world-first to China as well, as we know our customers will see real value in this simple and most accurate voice navigation,” said Mercedes-Benz Cars Executive Vice President Sajjad Khan at the launch. AutoSuggest, a feature in the W3W’s voice recognition software that helps drivers to identify and correct their mistakes,

will be put to the test in cities such as Beijing, where street names can often sound similar. Improving the system’s AI-powered speech recognition abilities is a focus for the company, as is paving the way for smart city innovations. The W3W team also views its product as a solution to the logistical obstacles faced by smart city technologies, since traditional addressing systems were designed during the pre-digitization era. Jones says that emerging markets, smart slums, and even developed cities are growing at such a pace that these addressing systems are struggling to stay up-to-date. He adds that a smarter system is required to meet the demand for new asset management, tourism, logistics, and mobility technology. The company’s objective is to become a global standard as a way to meet this demand. “We’re about to launch five new Indian languages, which brings the number of people that we cover to over half of the world’s population,” says Jones. “Our aim is to cover the entire population, so everyone can use what3words in their native language.” He is encouraged by W3W’s appearance in popular culture contexts, such as the system being used by a kidnap victim on the television show NCIS Los Angeles. There’s a craft beer called ///fear.movie. lions, which is the location of where the brewery is located in San Diego. If things go according to plan for W3W, then Let’s meet at ///midwinter. hotspot.jacuzzi will soon sound perfectly normal. Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief.


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QUICK TAKE

Opportunities on the Path to 5G Three steps to building an open telecom framework for current and future success

tomorrow. An open-source, virtualized network infrastructure allows telecoms to upgrade more easily and add new containerized services and technologies like 5G and IoT, while using the same underlying infrastructure. As such, companies working to maximize the potential of the 5G transition should take the following considerations into account to facilitate an effective and future-proof telecom framework. Enable network functions virtualization (NFV) Virtualizing network infrastructure can alleviate many of the challenges posed by legacy environments, and open technologies are essential for NFV implementation. The first step is introducing a reliable, hybrid cloud platform to help telecoms build a fully open, edge-computing architecture, reducing time-to-market for new services without sacrificing existing investments. The foundation for NFV is, therefore, a secure, scalable platform for building public and private clouds that deliver flexibility and growth.

By PETER MAN

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ffering speed, bandwidth, and low latency, 5G promises to support innovative, next-generation services. According to the International Data Corporation, the mobile segment represented 53.1% of the worldwide telecommunications services market in 2018 and is expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 1.4% over the 2019 to 2023 period. This growth is primarily driven by Embrace container technology increasing mobile data usage and to develop new apps the expansion of IoT. Open container platforms and The technology is also set platform-as-a-service tools allow to supercharge a range of other telecoms to quickly develop, industries and enable new smart host, scale, and deliver apps on city services, including smart the cloud. Container technolmeters, AR/VR, driverless cars, ogy enables apps to be strategirobotic surgery, remote healthcally deployed and moved across care, smart factories, and more. environments to keep up with Despite its vast potential, the demand. path to 5G also brings daunting In the context of the shift challenges. to 5G, having an integrated As telecommunication serenvironment for building and vice providers prepare for 5G, deploying containerized applifinding a way to stay competcations can enable telecoms to itive during this transition has use modern app development become an urgent need. An approaches to create compelling open platform with an agile pronew services. cess for delivering new services With the expectation that consumer to support customer needs is Support and build vital. With the expectation that automation technologies demand for mobile bandwidth will consumer demand for mobile Automation technologies help only continue to scale, telecoms bandwidth will only continue service providers rapidly and must cost-effectively expand to scale, telecoms must cost-efeconomically deploy new sertheir networks while improving fectively expand their networks, vices to an ever-increasing numwhile improving user experience, ber of subscribers, while saving user experience should they should they want to succeed in operational costs. want to stay competitive. this new landscape. As networks and infrastruc5G networks are considerably ture become more complex in more complex than their predethe 5G environment, greater cessors. It is already clear that the changes ahead will overwhelm automation is needed to ensure that multi-vendor deployments today’s talent pools and network management tools. Higher levels and distributed architectures are secure and compliant. of network intelligence and automation will be required, as well as developers with new cloud programming and engineering skills. n the short term, open and connected systems can help telecoms increase revenue, retain customers, and improve relationships with suppliers and vendors. The move to an open infrastrucA secure foundation of open platforms ture can also enable automation and support the rapid rollout of oving to an open, cloud-native infrastructure will help tele- innovative new services, laying the groundwork for the dramatic coms become more competitive now and prepare for 5G changes that 5G will bring.

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SPONSORED CONTENT FEATURES

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A Community Canvas Discussing the future of coworking with theDesk CEO and Co-founder Thomas Hui By SOPHIA LI

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ith the pervasive presence of startup culture, corporations are becoming increasingly eager to break free of traditional mindsets to adopt more innovative ones. With the need for fixed, conventional office spaces on the decline, the demand for co-working spaces has increased dramatically in recent years. Though it currently only makes up a small portion of all office spaces in Hong Kong, the co-working industry will continue to grow and accommodate up to 30% of corporate commercial property portfolios by 2030 (JLL). Thus, it has become even more imperative for co-working space providers to differentiate themselves from the competition to stay ahead. Boasting a sleek white interior that features lush green accents, theDesk’s space in United Centre embodies modern minimalism. This particular interior design style has helped the company stand out from its competitors and establish a recognizable brand. The brains behind this aesthetic is theDesk CEO and Co-founder Thomas Hui. He says that the strategic significance of this design approach is to create a “blank canvas that people add color to.” theDesk prides itself on its inclusive community, which not only includes members working from the space, but also the neighborhood. This approach means that the community is not only made up of the startups and SMEs that typically work from co-working spaces, but also incorporates the vicinity, which leads to a diverse membership that theDesk believes will help spark innovation. After founding its first site in 2016, theDesk has been quick to expand to other prime locations in Hong Kong. Their newest site, a collaboration with Sunlight REIT, spans seven floors and 29,000 square feet to create what they describe as ‘co-work 2.0,’ defined as a co-working space with a simple design concept which

enables members to work productively. Unlike its competitors, theDesk has primarily focused on expansion into China instead of SEA. theDesk has been quick to establish a foothold in the country, enjoying considerable success in Shanghai by collaborating with Bridge 8, which is a 600,000+ square foot creative park. When asked about the difference between the two regional markets, Hui says that although both markets have a high demand for co-working spaces, the availability of affordable space has made meeting this demand far easier in China than it has been in Hong Kong. theDesk’s main focus in the coming years is to expand regionally. “Our ambition is still in Asia, but I want to make our foundation strong before we expand too quickly. I think management is very important,” says Hui. “We have a great vision and we think big.” Hui likens the co-working industry of today to the PC industry of the 80s, where segmentation will quickly take place. He predicts that there will be many unexpected changes in the industry in the coming years as it continues to diversify. The future will be determined by operators who are willing to take a risk and create something new. thedesk.com Sophia is Jumpstart’s Editorial Intern.

Our ambition is still in Asia, but I want to make our foundation strong before we expand too fast. I think management is very important.

Top: theDesk Co-founder and CEO Thomas Hui. Left: theDesk’s space in United Centre. Photos courtesy of theDesk. October 2019

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Strengthening the Core

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Produced by: FLIPP Management

By MIN CHEN

Photographer: Stuart Miller

How digital innovation made SWEAT into a fitness empire

October 2019


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nyone who has searched for fitness content online knows Kayla Itsines. In 2018, TIME Magazine named her as among the ‘25 Most Influential People on the Internet.’ But to say that Itsines is a fitness trainer wouldn’t be doing justice to her achievements because she is also the face of and half the brains behind the world’s largest fitness community, SWEAT. Working behind-the-scenes is SWEAT Founder and CEO Tobi Pearce, who also happens to be Itsines’s fiancé. The SWEAT app, which provides users with fitness content, meal plans, progress trackers, and a forum, has been downloaded over 30 million times since its 2015 launch. It’s the highest-grossing app in the App Store’s health and fitness category, and brought in US$77 million of revenue in 2018. With the world in the grip of a wellness revolution, SWEAT epitomizes just how far digitization can go in transforming the user experience in the highly-competitive fitness industry. Pearce’s entrepreneurial journey is also one of the most inspirational to have come out of Australia in recent years, but as with every success story, what remains hidden are the struggles that the founder faced to get to where they are today.

How BBG came to be

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efore SWEAT, Adelaide native Pearce was a classically-trained pianist who was playing at a university-level when he was just 13-years-old. Due to a difficult situation at home, Pearce set out on his own at 17, spending two years couch-surfing, sleeping in his car, and–at one point–living on the streets. What remained stable during this challenging period in his life was his passion for fitness and entrepreneurialism. He became a certified personal trainer and went on to win the ‘Light-Heavyweight Division’ title at the 2011 World Natural Bodybuilding Competition. It was also at the gym that he met Itsines. By this time, she was already well-known in the local fitness community for the success of her personal training business. On the advice of her cousin, she began sharing before-and-after photos of her clients on Instagram and soon gained a strong following. Recognizing the potential of the program, Pearce and Itsines released the Bikini Body Guide (BBG)–a 102-page ebook with a 12-week workout plan, dietary advice, and educational content. BBG’s simple, goal-oriented structure set it apart from other workout plans of its kind, where a person who’s never stepped inside a gym can try and see results from the program. Each 28-minute workout consisted of four high-intensity exercises with seven-minute circuits, and users were encouraged to maintain the frequency at three times per week. Currently, over three million posts on Instagram have the #BBG hashtag. Following BBG’s explosive success in 2014, Itsines and Pearce shifted their attention to developing an app. SWEAT, previously named ‘SWEAT with Kayla,’ further fuelled the phenomenon that Bloomberg writer Claire Suddath described as “the Cult of Kayla.” By 2016, it surpassed Nike+ and Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal as the most downloaded fitness app in the App Store. Despite SWEAT’s remarkable growth, it has never received external funding. Pearce says the company’s growth strategy has always been informed by the commercial viability of its products, rather than fundraising. “Since our inception, we have been self-sufficient in building

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the business from the ground up,” says Pearce. “We’ve grown from Kayla and I operating out of our spare bedrooms to a team of over a hundred.”

Working up a sweat

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he fitness industry is evolving at a tremendous pace, where new trends are constantly emerging to keep up with millennials and Generation Z’s enthusiasm for health and wellness. Its growth has been primarily driven by technology, with the rise of hardware– namely wearables and equipment–and online fitness instruction. The latter has enabled a surge in e-gymming, or working out from the comfort of one’s home. The decline of the big-box gym model and high costs associated with boutique gym classes have made at-home fitness all the more attractive. According to the 2019 Les Mills Global Consumer Fitness Survey, 85% of all gym-goers also enjoy e-gymming. While the practice isn’t new (Jane Fonda’s workout videos from the 80s come to mind), technology has allowed it to become more targeted and, as a result, more effective. Frequently referred to as the ‘Netflix of fitness’ for its expansive content offerings, SWEAT has invested heavily in data analysis to personalize user experience. After members create an account, they’re asked to select a fitness goal, such as gaining muscle, regaining strength post-pregnancy, or nurturing the mindbody connection. They can then elect to commence their Since our fitness plan based on their inception, we have goals and preferences. “The core of SWEAT’s been self-sufficient innovation lies within our in building the in-house data science and software development teams. business from the They iterate our product ground up. We’ve based on what our audience grown from Kayla wants and needs, and bring the workouts that specifically and I operating meet their demands to life,” out of our spare says Pearce. bedrooms to a The same approach is applied to the app’s other team of over tools and content offerings. a hundred. Meal plans are based on the members’ dietary requirements and weight, and the ‘Planner’ can be synced to their calendar and health tracker. A community-focus sits front and center, allowing members to see which workouts are the most popular and use the forum to engage with and seek advice from other users. These features serve to increase stickiness, which is crucial for staying competitive in an industry with notably high churn, especially when a paid subscription comes into the mix. Since consumers can’t gain immediate value from fitness products, as it takes time to see results, a deep understanding of what impacts their performance and motivation is required to overcome this ‘usage barrier.’ Pearce shares that a member’s propensity to continue to train with SWEAT is 90% or higher once they complete four to six workouts on the platform, which the company encourages by “manifesting engagement early on in the member’s journey” and “maintaining engagement.” “A good way of thinking about it is that you are trying to sell the member the same service every 30 days [for monthly subscripOctober 2019

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tions], which means they are regularly making a purchasing decision. Therefore, value has to be present on an ongoing basis,” adds Pearce. He notes that the benefit of the subscription model is allowing SWEAT to observe real-time data about members’ behavior. Information drawn from purchasing data and traffic is used to move a higher ratio of people in the addressable market through the company’s marketing funnel. Much of these efforts are carried out on the social engagement side, where SWEAT excels–if Itsines’s almost 12 million followers are anything to go by. “Our content management system helps us to ensure that all content across our social channels is checked–whether by our in-house exercise scientists, nutritionists, or communications team–to make sure it aligns with our brand strategy,” says Pearce. While social media is a critical aspect of any marketing plan, Pearce warns that it can distract from a company’s core business. This view has led him to take a contrarian stance on a widely-adopted practice: engaging in brand collaborations. He says that SWEAT’s vision is to empower women through fitness, so promoting activewear labels or health retreats does little to benefit the end-user. “This concept is relevant to many businesses in this day and age, where they try to use social media platforms as another revenue stream, which may negatively impact brand quality and trust,” says Pearce. He describes valuable social content as credible, authentic, and educational, which may seem “counterintuitive” on the surface because it doesn’t try to sell the product or gain more followers. It does, however, seek the long-term reward of gaining trust through engagement. Rather than sharing polished studio shots of trainers, SWEAT’s Instagram feed is filled with photos of real women, where the emphasis is on progress and confidence, rather than achieving the ‘perfect’ body. “Unfortunately, many brands make the simple mistake of failing to understand the social media content their customers or fans want to see,” Pearce adds. “If a brand fails to deliver this value proposition, customers will leave and seek an alternative social media account which is delivering what they are seeking.”

The future of SWEAT and the industry

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nternational expansion happened quickly for SWEAT, as the app has already been translated into eight languages. But Pearce says that it’s only the beginning, as the company works to identify what motivates women to pursue fitness in every new market they enter.

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“Something that became apparent to us early on was that translation is not localization,” says Pearce. “Cultural relevance is not based on convention, so we conduct market research that informs the way we present our product across various markets.” Scaling a content platform also poses significant technical challenges. Pearce says that managing tech debt is an ongoing task for the company, as it aims to strike a balance between deploying code at a rate that accommodates the volume of users, while ensuring the product is commercially viable down the line. “We’ve experienced first hand the tug-of-war between getting content and software to market quickly, versus building wellthought-out technology, which takes time,” he adds. “In the long-run, we hope to build code effectively and efficiently to ensure we meet quality, volume, and velocity demands.” Looking ahead, Pearce says that “increased collaboration between companies” will “bring the collective fitness community the best products and experiences possible.” One major trend in the industry is the intersection of fitness content and equipment, where leading players have achieved considerable success. Peloton, a company that builds bikes and treadmills with touch screens that stream workout classes, raised $994 million before going public at the end of September; and Mirror, a developer of LCD screens that display fitness content and information like the user’s heart rate, is valued at just under $300 million (TechCrunch). While we will have to wait for SWEAT’s next product launch, Pearce says that consumers’ taste for “all-access, at all times, to all things lifestyle” will define the fitness Above: The SWEAT industry’s transition in the coming app’s user dashboard. years. He’s also excited by the ways Left: SWEAT app that such products will elevate the featured on Apple accessibility of knowledge around Watch. Photos courtesy health and wellness. of SWEAT. “When it comes to the digitization of fitness, it’s clear that technology is continuing to reduce the barriers to entry and provide more people around the world–particularly lower socioeconomic demographics–with access to health and fitness tools and education,” says Pearce. “If you go back 20 or 30 years, only the wealthy had access to a personal trainer, and now it’s accessible for anyone who wants to change their life.” He adds that one downside of the fitness industry’s rapid growth is its lack of maturity, which has allowed smaller actors who peddle pseudoscience to taint its overall reputation. Consequently, it’s difficult for users to discern the value they can gain from content providers. “The industry is producing more fitness content, but it also doesn’t mean that more people trust the content or are willing to pay for more content,” says Pearce. The solution, he proposes, is


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Tobi’s Advice for Entrepreneurs It’s not enough to be great at one thing. You have to know enough about all the different functions to bring them all together. No regrets

Starting a business from the ground up doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. Like everyone, I’ve made mistakes along the way. But for every mistake, there’s always an important underlying lesson. Whether you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey, or running a larger business, it’s essential to never view your mistakes as regrets but as learnings and opportunities. Ultimately, if you’ve chosen this life (and to be clear, no one forces you to be an entrepreneur), then be prepared to work hard every day and exercise discipline in your approach.

Lead from the front

to educate consumers about the importance of science-backed content by industry professionals, so they can identify the hobbyists or those looking to score a quick sale.

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n a booming and dynamic industry, SWEAT has managed to break new ground by opening up professional fitness instruction in an unprecedented way. Much of its success can be credited to the serendipitous combination of Itsines and Pearce’s skill sets; Itsines, for her client-centric fitness instruction and down-to-earth approach to engaging with the community; and Pearce, for his focus on business fundamentals in scaling the company. Together, their approach has led to high levels of brand loyalty and impressive user acquisition rates, propelling the fitness industry forward as a result. More integral, perhaps, is the SWEAT community itself and its ability to draw in women who felt too insecure about their abilities to think that change was possible– until now. Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief. Photographer: Stuart Miller (IG: @stuartmillerphoto, stuartmiller.com) Produced by: FLIPP Management (IG: @____flipp, flipp.com.au)

Be an ‘infinite learner’ LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman said that “as an entrepreneur, you must be an infinite learner.” I couldn’t agree with this more. It means learning everything that you need to learn in the exact moment in time or before the moment in time that you need it. You should learn about every single function of your business. It’s not enough to be great at one thing; it’s about knowing enough about all the different functions to bring it all together. Being a founder often has similarities to being a conductor of an orchestra. You may not be able to play all the instruments, but you need to understand how they all achieve harmony.

We’ve experienced first hand the tug-ofwar between getting content and software to market quickly, versus building well thought-out technology, which takes time.

A successful leader is one whose motivation, passion, and enthusiasm for their vision is contagious and can inspire their team to get on board with the mission at hand. They need to be passionate, results-oriented, and a strong communicator with sound knowledge of the roles within their business to enable valuable communication with each business function. I’m also a firm believer in rewarding your team based on their skills and contributions, rather than their position within the business. It’s not about what their title says; it’s about the value they add and the attitude with which they deliver value. Lastly and most importantly, leaders should make time for their employees and be approachable. I believe in an open-door leadership style which fosters an environment of collaboration and productivity.

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As Gold As It Gets Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss discuss how Gemini is shaping the future of money

By MIN CHEN

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Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are no strangers to startup life.

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he twin brothers grew up visiting the offices of Winklevoss Technologies, an industry-leading developer of pension forecasting software founded by their father, Dr. Howard Winklevoss, Jr. It wasn’t long before their own entrepreneurial ambitions were to materialize, beginning with the establishment of their high school’s first rowing team. They were propelled to fame in 2009 with the publication of Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, which tells the story of how they and fellow Harvard University students, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, battled over a little social media

platform we call Facebook. The book and its Academy Award-winning film adaptation, The Social Network, provide a fascinating snapshot of events that led the world into a new age of social connectivity. However, it failed to paint an accurate picture of two people who would find themselves at the center of another technological movement that is proving to be one of the most disruptive of our time. This telling begins with the founding of Gemini–a next-generation cryptocurrency exchange and custody platform that has captivated and shaken the legacy banking community. Named after the astrological sign represented by twins, Gemini also symbolizes the duality of the old and new world: an archaic monetary system that has dominated economies until now, and the dawn of digital currency. Jumpstart had the opportunity to interview Cameron and Tyler about how Gemini came to be, the company’s philosophy, and how it plays into their vision for the future of money.

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A digital gold mine

et’s first go back to 2012. Cameron and Tyler were on vacation on the island of Ibiza. The elite rowers, who came in 6th for the men’s pair event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had been training six hours a day, six days a week since they were 14-years-old. Having retired from the sport, they founded early-stage investment firm, Winklevoss Capital, that year and were taking a well-deserved break. It was amidst the chaos of deafening EDM and free-flow champagne that they learned about crypto. “We were blown away by this new form of money, purpose-built for the Internet, that worked like email,” says Tyler. Early evangelists touted the decentralized currency as a radical medium of exchange guided by a mathematics-based code, rather than a state. While it was still unknown to most and contentious to the rest in 2012, Cameron and Tyler knew the technology had the potential to become a new asset class. “Our initial investment was informed by our belief that bitcoin, due to its fixed supply, was a store-of-value–the software version of gold, digital gold, or gold 2.0,” says Cameron. Due to its price volatility and association with anarchical, libertarian ideologies–an impression stemming from its use by the criminal underworld–crypto was treated with profound skepticism by finance industry leaders and even Silicon Valley technologists in its early days. But Cameron and Tyler took a long-term view, basing their confidence in the nascent technology on the impenetrability of blockchain protocols and its community of ardent and cerebral advocates. “The energy and passion of the Bitcoin community was and still is electric–something we had never felt before. However, at that time, it was the Wild West and far from being ready for mass adoption,” says Tyler. They wouldn’t allow it to remain lawless for long. On April 11, 2013, the front page of The New York Times read: ‘Never Mind Facebook; Winklevoss Twins Rule in Digital Money.’ They told the Times that they owned US$11 million worth of Bitcoins (BTC), which was around 120,000 coins, or 1% of the total in circulation in 2013. The average coin price was $120 that year; Left: Gemini Co-founder and President Cameron Winklevoss. Right: Gemini Co-founder and CEO Tyler Winklevoss. Photos courtesy of Gemini.

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at its peak in 2017, it was over $19,000, making Cameron and Tyler the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires (Yahoo Finance). Related headlines made them crypto’s most high-profile and successful champions, but their commitment to advancing the digital asset went much deeper. To describe Cameron and Tyler as crypto bulls would be like describing Elon Musk as a car enthusiast. Accumulating a significant amount of the digital currency was only the first step to reaching their ultimate goal of realizing the future of money through crypto. At the New York Department of Financial Services’ (NYDFS) public hearing on virtual currency, American VC Fred Wilson described its five phases as (1) acceptance by crypto-libertarians [2009 to 2010]; (2) use on platforms like the dark web marketplace Silk Road, also known as the “vice phase” [2010 to 2011]; (3) a form of speculative trading [2011 to 2014]; (4) its current phase of being accepted by real merchants; and (5) becoming programmable money, or “real money represented in digital form” (IBM). Reaching the final stage would require the reversal of a narrative that placed digital currencies outside regulatory frameworks, meaning a lack of trust in the technology was a critical obstacle to overcome. By 2013, crypto had–for the most part–moved past the public’s initial perception of it as an instrument for illegal activity, but many remained concerned about its stability and the platforms managing it. Mt. Gox, the largest exchange during crypto’s early years, experienced multiple security breaches until it filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after losing 850,000 BTC worth around $480 million (approximately $8.5 billion today)–estimated to be 7% of the total number of BTCs at the time (Coindesk). Having used Mt. Gox themselves and witnessing its demise further cemented Cameron and Tyler’s conviction that “thoughtful regulation in cryptocurrency is a win-win for the market and regulators alike.” They initially set out to invest in a company that would fill the gap left by the defunct exchange, but it soon became apparent that no entrepreneur ascribed to their exacting “security-first mentality” at that stage. So they took it upon themselves to create an exchange and custodian that involved regulators every step of the way. “For the industry, regulation is the path to trust, which underpins every successful market and lays the foundation for

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The energy and passion of the bitcoin community was and still is electric–something we had never felt before. However, at that time, it was the Wild West and far from being ready for mass adoption. world-changing innovation,” says Cameron. “Without it, cryptocurrency industry pioneers run the risk of building a house of cards.” They founded Gemini in 2014 as “a regulated, easy, and safe way to buy, sell, and store Bitcoin and other cryptos,” where trust is built on the company’s promise to meet the high and complex demands of today’s governing bodies. For users, it’s by providing a simple and intuitive platform, making crypto accessible to the average person. “We have four key pillars that drive all our decisions: security, licensing, compliance, and product,” adds Cameron. “These pillars are what help us build trust, both in the market of the future and in Gemini.”

A sign from the crypto gods

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emini launched in 2015 as a New York Trust Company–a license that took the company a year and a half to obtain. Currently, individuals and institutions can trade BTC, Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), and Zcash (ZEC). The platform also offers various order types for advanced traders, including Limit, Immediate-or-Cancel, Maker-or-Cancel, and Auction-Only. “We married one of the oldest regulatory frameworks in the world, a New York trust company, with one of the newest global technologies,” says Tyler. “We waited to operate until we received our trust charter, which was a first in the

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crypto industry.” Gemini is one of the first digital asset exchanges and custodians to be regulated by the NYDFS, making the company subject to the department and New York banking laws’ stipulations on capital reserves, cybersecurity, and banking compliance. This feat, like the many regulatory hurdles that were to come, was a process of discovery. “We want to set the standards of excellence and best practices for the cryptocurrency industry as a whole,” says Cameron. “The only way to do that is by making sure we’re a safe, regulated place for people to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrency.” Navigating the murky waters of digital asset regulation seems to be a running theme for Gemini, and the company has made it a habit of coming in first. It’s the first crypto exchange and custodian to complete the Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type I examination–an audit that tests an organization’s financial oversight controls–and is currently undergoing a SOC 2 Type II examination. Gemini also became the world’s first licensed ETH exchange in 2016 and licensed ZEC exchange in 2018. It was

Top and above: The Gemini platform and mobile app. Photos courtesy of Gemini 48

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the first to introduce daily BTC auctions in 2016, ETH auctions in 2017, and a regulated stablecoin–the Gemini dollar (GUSD)–in 2018, which is pegged oneto-one to the U.S. dollar. The company recently introduced Gemini CustodyTM, a regulated, institutional-grade custody solution, which allows users to trade instantly through credits on the Gemini Exchange. Gemini’s custody features also include a user interface for customers to grant access to auditors and create sub-accounts with various levels of permissions. Such efforts are informed by Gemini’s mission to provide a “crypto-native solution” that ensures the same level of security, liquidity, and trust that traditional exchanges offer. “The healthiest financial markets in the world are the most thoughtfully regulated, and the right regulation will propel bitcoin forward,” says Tyler. “You can’t point to a thriving market today that isn’t rules-based or governed by some level of oversight.” Gemini has applied for a broker-dealer license with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which would allow it to become an Alternative Trading System on a federal level. If and when approved, the license would enable the company to trade securities; previously, it worked with tokenized securities platform Harbor to allow institutional investors to purchase securities with GUSD. On the industry-side, Gemini is a part of the Virtual Commodities Association, a group that aims to establish a self-regulatory organization, where the goal is to add yet another layer of oversight for user protection. The company also works with several fintech providers to foster crypto’s applications in the real world. Earlier this year, Gemini announced that it would be

storing client assets for BlockFi, a startup that provides loans backed by crypto, which also marked the establishment of BTC and ETH’s first interest-bearing accounts. In May, Gemini partnered with payment gateway Flexa, allowing users to spend BTC, ETH, BCH, and GUSD at large U.S. retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and Office Depot. While these steps have progressed crypto’s standing as an asset class, some in the community have pushed back against actions that they believe deviate from the technology’s fundamental purpose of being a decentralized currency. In January of this year, Emilio Janus–columnist at crypto news platform, Bitcoinist–wrote that regulated exchanges signal the “‘sanitation’ of Bitcoin for selling to the masses,” which “goes against the biggest reason it was created: getting rid of middlemen.” Cameron and Tyler believe that there’s room for regulated and unregulated exchanges in the crypto market; the key is that consumers are provided options in terms of how they access the technology. With mainstream investors and institutional clientele rushing in, crypto is slowly but surely becoming a part of the formal banking system–necessitating a measured approach to its advancement.

You can’t point to a thriving market today that isn’t rules-based or governed by some level of oversight. In the U.S., one notable hurdle for wider adoption is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s reluctance to approve any crypto exchange-traded funds (ETF). An authorization would allow investors to trade the ETF through traditional exchanges and markets, opening up the public’s access to digital currencies in a major way. That said, Winklevoss IP was awarded a patent claim in June this year that will settle ETPs holding cryptocurrencies, and is one of seven crypto-related patents held by the company. This development indicates that regulators recognize the legitimacy of digital asset management, suggesting a crypto ETF is potentially on the horizon. “Today, there is a growing realization that cryptocurrency and regulation are here to stay,” says Tyler. “If we as an industry engage with regulators, we will build frameworks that foster consumer protection and market integrity.”


An advertisement for Gemini on Wall Street. Photo courtesy of James Chororos / Gemini.

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be in crypto and they wanted to build the future of money at Gemini.” hile Gemini has made tremenThe theme for the company’s stratdous strides in the digital asset egy in 2019 has been “going mobile and space in the U.S., taking on global.” Gemini launched a mobile app the rest of the world is a dif- last December, which led to a dramatic ferent game. Having expanded uptick in users. The company has also to Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, extended its operations to Chicago, bringJapan, and most recently, Australia, the ing the entire team to over 200 people. company is competing against the likes of “Chicago, one of the world’s major Kraken, Coinbase, and Binance as it con- financial centers and the birthplace of tinues to grow its global presence. commodity trading, is a natural place for The landscape has become more cut- us to be,” says Tyler. “Gemini’s Chicago throat in Asia and office is an engineering Europe, where the hub focused on supOur advice is to always porting our core offernumber of crypto afiask for permission, not cionados is increasing ings, including those forgiveness. Bitcoin isn’t for professional trading more rapidly compared to the Americas. and custody, as well going away. Bitcoin A majority of fundraisas building out new and cryptocurrency ing deals in the indusproduct lines.” will only continue to try now take place on Cameron and Tyler reimagine industries, the two continents; the are also encouraged by starting with money. Asian market makes crypto’s potential to up 26% and Europe, enable social mobil41%, as of the second quarter of this year ity through financial inclusion as Gemini (PwC). The Americas, which assumed enters new markets. They note that two 51% of global deals in the second quarter severe hindrances to economic developof 2018, saw a drop to 28% in the same ment and equity are the “one billion-plus quarter of this year (PwC). unbanked individuals on the planet” and To stay competitive, Gemini has wel- the “massive centralized data silos,” which comed some of the industry’s top talents. can be addressed through crypto’s accessiIn August, the company announced that bility and decentralized data structure. David Damato–formerly the Chief Secu“This new system [...] one that isn’t rity Officer of the world’s most valuable limited to banking hours and the whims of private cybersecurity company, Tanium– what can only be described as a Balkanized has joined the team in the same role. banking system, means that more people “We are most proud of the team we have access to financial services, which have built and the senior leaders who helps democratize the power of investment have joined us in the past year,” says Tyler. and banking,” says Cameron. “These are folks who could literally go For entrepreneurs hoping to enter the anywhere, but they decided they needed to industry, their advice is to remain patient

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while regulation catches up to innovation, as “this is just the bottom of the first inning for bitcoin.” They believe that the barriers to entry will lower, providing more opportunities for founders to build products that will help Internet money realize its vast potential for financial inclusivity. “Our advice is to always ask for permission, not forgiveness. Bitcoin isn’t going away. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency will only continue to reimagine industries, starting with money,” says Tyler.

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hen Hollywood decides to turn your life into a movie, you can bet that your identity will forever be tied to that of your character–although it would appear that Cameron and Tyler are exceptions. Not only are they guiding their own story, but it’s one that will affect those far beyond themselves. Mezrich, who wrote another book about them this year titled Bitcoin Billionaires, has gotten to know Cameron and Tyler well over the past decade, especially through tracing their crypto journey. He’s stated that he doesn’t think “[they] have been part of two revolutions by chance” (Boston Magazine). To him, their participation is a result of the fact that “Tyler and Cameron didn’t believe they were on the world to exist; they were here to create, to build” (Bitcoin Billionaires, 35). For Cameron and Tyler, building the future, as we enter a new decade, means transforming our monetary system by launching the adoption of crypto into a new stratosphere. What they plan on pioneering once this destination has been reached is anyone’s guess. Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief.

The Gemini headquarters located in New York City. Photo courtesy of Gemini.


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FEATURES PHOTO STORY

Br ight Light s, B rave C i t y A PHOTO STORY

Photographers explore the theme of future cities through their lens.

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Justin Lim

Paris

justlimphoto.com

hurtingbombz

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Anson Tang

Hong Kong

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Kevin Dharmawan

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Kiva Huang London kiva_huang

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Kevin Junior

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Catch Me If You Can Exploring the implications of using genetic genealogy in law enforcement By KHADIJA AZHAR

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etween 1974 and 1986, a paralyzing fear chipped away at the veneer of tranquility surrounding suburban California and settled into its picturesque neighborhoods. While the Visalia Ransacker burgled and stalked, the East Area Rapist stunned Sacramento County with a series of rapes, and the Original Night Stalker terrorized Los Angeles with a nightmarish string of murders. Victims were threatened in phone calls and the police received taunting letters, but the investigations eventually came to a standstill with no convincing suspects in sight. It wasn’t until 2001 that forensic links were established between the seemingly disparate crimes. The Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, and the Original Night Stalker would merge into a single perpetrator: the Golden State Killer. For almost three decades, the police tried to uncover his identity but to no avail–until 60

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genetic genealogy led to a surprising arrest in 2018.

DNA profiling through the years

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ven before genetic genealogy was popularized in law enforcement circles, DNA analysis was a well-established forensic technique. Its roots trace back to 1986, where crime scene DNA was first used to convict a murder suspect in Leicester, England after a mass screening of blood and saliva samples revealed a match. Since then, this method has become widely adopted, and countries around the world have developed sophisticated national databases–such as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in the U.S.–to search for matches among biological samples. But there’s a catch. CODIS only contains DNA evidence obtained from convicted offenders, crime scenes, and missing persons investigations.

As a result, it also reflects and could potentially propagate racial and ethnic prejudices that are prevalent in the criminal justice system. Alternatively, genetic genealogy uses non-forensic databases like GEDMatch and FamilyTreeDNA, which allow consumers to upload data from commercial DNA testing companies that trace ancestries when traditional documentation isn’t available. Not only do consumers provide their profiles voluntarily, but they also come primarily from Caucasian users. With an expanded trove of DNA that isn’t limited to arrestees and ethnic minorities, police can potentially solve more crimes while redressing racial disparities. Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist and co-founder of the DNA Doe Project, pioneered the use of public databases in law enforcement when she realized that commercial genealogy companies analyzed the same 20 markers that forensic experts used to match DNA samples. “The companies, when they first started off, borrowed those [CODIS] markers,” she says. “In 2011, I went to the Seattle King County Sheriff ’s Department and pointed this out to them, and I eventually got Y-DNA from a cold case.” In 1991, 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough was strangled next to a high school in the state of Washington. Exactly 20


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years later, Dr. Fitzpatrick uploaded her murderer’s Y-DNA onto GEDMatch and was able to narrow down the suspect pool to distant relatives of two Mayflower pilgrims. While the killer wasn’t caught, her technique made waves in both the genealogy and forensics communities.

Catching the Golden State Killer

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nvestigators working on the Golden State Killer case decided to use GEDMatch in the hopes of putting a name to the reign of terror that plagued California four decades ago. Using evidence found at the crime scenes, detectives painstakingly combed every branch of the 25 family trees generated from a couple later identified as the killer’s great-great-greatgrandparents. They eventually zeroed in on a 72-year-old retired policeman who not only fit the age profile, but lived in the same areas as the Golden State Killer and had purchased guns during two of the killer’s crime sprees. In April last year, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested in Citrus Heights after his DNA was found to be a match. While the statute of limitations had expired on the over 100 burglaries and 50 rapes he committed, he was charged on 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of kidnapping for robbery.

I think [the field] will be regulated to some extent, but just because it’s so powerful and useful and available, I don’t think there’s a way to keep a lid on it.

Ethical considerations

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ith an arrest as high-profile as that of the Golden State Killer, it’s easy to sweep potential pitfalls of the technique under the rug for what is deemed to be the greater good. A harder look at these oversights reveals significant hurdles in the widespread adoption of forensic genetic genealogy. In 2014, police investigating the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge followed up on what seemed to be a promising lead, as the crime scene DNA partially matched a profile in Ancestry.com’s database. A court order forced the website to reveal Michael Usry Sr. as the DNA match, and police honed in on his son as a suspect. Michael Usry Jr. was cleared after spending 33 days uncertain of his fate as a result of a false positive. His case confirmed that a conversation about regulating the use of non-forensic databases to protect genetic privacy was long overdue. Top right: Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick is a scientist and entrepreneur who has pioneered the field of forensic genealogy, authoring three books on the subject. Photo courtesy of DNA Doe Project. October 2019

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Dr. Fitzpatrick remains skeptical about regulating the field. “I think it will be regulated to some extent, but just because it’s so powerful and useful and available, I don’t think there’s a way to keep a lid on it,” she says. Prohibiting the use of public genealogy databases would likely bring more harm than good, but specific terms of use need to be instituted to limit violations of privacy. GEDMatch recently changed its conditions to include an opt-in choice for users to decide if they want their DNA to be used in law enforcement investigations. However, it also added a clause allowing police to use its data to generate leads in cases of violent crime, removing an earlier limitation of only homicides and rapes. As was the case with CODIS, which expanded its database from sex offenders to arrestees since its inception, GEDMatch will also likely work to ease restrictions over time. Updating terms of service may be a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t account for the misuse of these services by rogue law enforcement personnel, inexperienced genealogists, or vigilantes looking to take justice into their own hands. If these concerns aren’t enough, Dr. Fitz-

patrick explains the underlying source of controversy. “As long as you sip from a glass of water [...] I could collect your DNA from that glass and find out who you are, and who your family is without you ever knowing,” she says.

We felt that the Does would be much easier for the community to digest and we were right.

The DNA Doe Project

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wing to the backlash she received following the Sarah Yarborough case, Dr. Fitzpatrick tends to steer clear of controversy. She has chosen to work with John and Jane Does instead of suspects in criminal cases. “We felt that the Does would be much

Talent proven with Gold Medal win in first try at WPPI

Tieying Zhou President Enishi Kamakura Wedding

After graduating from Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in graphic design in the area of film photography in 1998, she came to Japan in July 1998. She graduated with a degree in graphic design from Tokyo Gakugei University Graduate School. 1-13-46 Ogigayatsu, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0011 0467-39-5042 info@enishi-kamakura.jp 62

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The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), held every February in Las Vegas, Nevada, is the largest convention for both amateur and professional wedding and portrait photographers and filmmakers from all over the world. The convention is taking place for the 39th time this year. Each year, the event draws more than 3,000 attendees from around the world. Contests are held in up to 40 categories with more than 40 judges involved. In what is regarded as the “Academy Awards for wedding photographers,” there is one entrepreneur who has set a brilliant record—winning prizes for five out of nine of her entries and placing third and winning the Gold Medal in two categories—all in her first try at WPPI. Her name is Tieying Zhou, and she is from China. After graduating from China’s prestigious Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, she studied graphic design at Tokyo Gakugei University Graduate School in Japan. After joining a film production company and working on album design, when her superior asked her to take photos, she took up photography. A whirlwind of events led to her starting up Enishi Kamakura Wedding. “Design and photography are founded on the same idea—what you want to communicate to your customers,” said Ms. Zhou. Considering the huge market her home country offers, why did she choose to start up her business in Japan with its shrinking population? In addition, the company is not located in Tokyo, but Kamakura. “Evidently, China is the choice in terms of market size. However, Japan offers beautiful locations—its mountains, sea, greenery, and snow. The past and the present coexist, October 2019

easier for the community to digest and we were right,” she explains. The DNA Doe Project is a non-profit organization consisting of around 40 volunteers who have dedicated their downtime to solving mysteries hidden in genetic profiles and family trees. With 12 cases solved and myriads more in the pipeline, the project has only scratched the surface of the more than 80,000 active missing person cases in the U.S. (NCIC), but it’s more than enough for families that have received closure after years of searching. Forensics isn’t as flashy as the panoply of crime shows of the noughties have led us to believe. The field has been grappling with constraints, which seem all the more restrictive given the gravity of criminal cases, but advancements in technology have alleviated some of these challenges. In the future, techniques such as DNA phenotyping and virtual autopsies will likely become forensic staples. Until then, it’s vital to demarcate clear rules for the maintenance of genetic privacy before the debate careens out of control. “I think it’s clear that you can’t stop this,” says Dr. Fitzpatrick, “This is the way that the world is.” Khadija is Jumpstart’s Editorial Intern.

and there are traditions that remain preserved, untouched by modernization. Foreigners notice what the Japanese regard as given. One example is the beauty of Japanese attire. “I thought that Kamakura is the place to start up a company since the beauty of Japanese attire will be utilized here. I wanted to focus on Japanese attire rather than the Japanese themselves. Being from outside Japan, I feel the traditions of the country must be protected. An example is the way the kimono is worn. I don’t want to be perceived as doing shoddy work. I intend to serve the needs of my customers from a perspective unique to foreign countries, while preserving Japan’s traditions, to satisfy the customer’s discriminating eye.” Her commitment and effort, which have attracted global attention, deliver the best portraits commemorating the start of new lives for the bride and groom. The "Foreign Hand" that can truly preserve Japan's traditional beauty

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WASTE TIDE FICTION

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EXCERPT PROLOGUE

Waste Tide By Stanley Chen

Mimi is drowning in the world's trash.

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Clouds roiled in the southeast like runaway horses. Typhoon Saola, still three hundred kilometers away over the sea, was approaching Hong Kong. The typhoon’s course, fleet-footed and erratic, was just like its namesake. A vision of that graceful animal, now existing only as pixels in image databases and stuffed museum specimens, flashed before the eyes of Sug-Yi Chiu Ho. The name “saola” (scientific name: Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) came from a Dai word used in Vietnam. Scientists had to wait eighteen years between the discovery of some unusual skulls and the first reported sighting of a live specimen by peasants; five years later, the species was extinct. White stripes covered the saola’s cheeks. Long, straight horns, curving slightly backward, gave it the nickname “Asian unicorn.” The species possessed the largest scent glands among all then-extant mammals—also an important cause for its demise. In the folklore of Vietnam and Laos, it was a symbol of good fortune, happiness, and longevity. Now all that sounded like a joke. So damned cold! Sug-Yi gripped the side of the tiny speedboat with one hand and pulled the jacket tighter around herself with the other. The Hong Kong Observatory had issued tropical cyclone warning signal number eight, indicating a sustained wind speed between 63 and 117 kilometers per hour, with occasional gusts exceeding 180 kilometers per hour. I really picked a good day. Coltsfoot Blossom leapt, breaking through a series of foam-crested waves, and gained on the 8,000-TEU cargo ship Long Prosperity. The cargo ship had crossed the 64

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Pacific from the Port of New York and New Jersey. It was bound for the wharves at Kwai Tsing, from where its cargo would be distributed to smaller ports in China. The pilot gestured at Sug-Yi, and she nodded back. Her face, buffeted by the strong wind, appeared especially pale. The numbers scrolling across Sug-Yi’s goggles indicated that the target had decreased its speed to ten knots in accordance with the port authority’s regulations, meant to reduce the amount of pollution spilling into the port’s waters as well as to lessen the effect of the ship’s wake on smaller vessels. And it provides a good opportunity. She waved at her crew, reminding everyone to be alert. Coltsfoot Blossom accelerated and converged on Long Prosperity’s heading until it was right up against the side of the ship, matching its course and speed. Next to the giant container ship—built by Samsung Heavy Industries, 334.8 meters long and 45.8 meters wide—the speedboat looked like a remora attached to a basking shark. “Hurry!” Sug-Yi’s voice was almost drowned out by the roaring motor. The magnetic rope ladder shot out like a spiderweb, firmly attaching itself to a spot about two meters below the starboard rail of Long Prosperity. The bottom of the ladder remained connected to the speedboat to provide stability. A fully armed member of the assault team nimbly began the climb up. He dangled from the underside of the ladder so that his back was toward the sea to take advantage of the hooks attached to the soles of his shoes as well as to avoid becoming dizzy from the visual impact of the surging waves. Though he was well-trained, the lone vanguard swayed terrifyingly like a wounded insect on a thread of spider silk, buffeted by the wind and waves. The twenty-five meters he had to traverse looked short but would be arduous. Hurry, hurry! Sug-Yi’s dread rose with every passing second. Coltsfoot Blossom’s agile interception of Long Prosperity had happened so fast that the crew of the cargo ship had not yet recovered enough to react. But time was running out. Once they reached the shallow water inside the harbor, the waves would become even higher, increasing the danger of the maneuver. “Are you getting all this?” she asked the young woman next to her, who nodded anxiously, the miniature camera mounted next to her ear bobbing with her head. This was her first mission. Sug-Yi gestured

at her to stabilize the camera. The show must go on. She let out a laugh. When had she changed from being disgusted by this philosophy to being its loyal practitioner? This was akin to the “non-violent direct actions” that Greenpeace engaged in: lying down on tracks to stop trains, climbing landmarks, assaulting whaling ships, intercepting nuclear waste . . . time after time, each performance more outrageous than the last, relentlessly challenging the tolerance of governments and megacorporations. While these acts earned her organization a growing measure of notoriety, they also brought public attention to environmental problems and perhaps helped to enact environmental protection legislation. That’s justification enough, isn’t it? She recalled the speech given by her mentor, the founder of the Coltsfoot Blossom Organization, Dr. Guo Qide, at the most recent reception for new members. The lights had dimmed, and a painting had appeared on the giant screen: amid mountainous waves, a three-masted sailing ship was about to capsize. Some of the panicked crew had escaped on life rafts, leaving behind a few hopeless men to struggle aboard the ship. The chiaroscuro of black sea and white waves arrested the eye. “This painting, L’Incendie du Kent, was the work of Jean Antoine Théodore Gudin in 1827.” Dr. Guo’s mesmerizing voice captivated the crowd as he declared, “The world we live in is that ship, about to be lost. Some have already jumped on life rafts, but some still remain ignorant and unaware. “Our job at Coltsfoot Blossom is to sound the drum and strike the gong, to play the clown, to swallow fire, to use whatever tricks we have at our disposal to catch everyone’s attention. We must let people know that the ship is on the verge of sinking, but those responsible for our condition think they can get away untouched. Unless we tie their fates to ours, we will be the ones left behind to pay for their mistakes.” A sharp cry interrupted Sug-Yi’s reverie. She looked up and saw several crewmen looking over the gunwale of Long Prosperity. They were trying to pry loose the rope ladder’s magnetic point of attachment, but since the ship’s hull was designed to maximize the cargo deck area, the top edge of the hull curved out at an extreme angle. In order to reach the ladder, the men had to lean so far out that


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their bodies dangled over the side. Fighting ineffectually against the strong wind, the crewmen finally gave up after a few attempts. The man on the ladder climbed even faster. Only about ten meters left. A white stream of water lashed out from Long Prosperity’s deck and struck his body. The rope ladder swayed like a swing. The man’s hands slipped off the rope, and he began the long plunge into the surging waves below. Sug-Yi’s hand covered her mouth but she couldn’t look away. The young woman with the camera screamed. But the man stopped falling. He hung upside down in the air: the hooks on the bottom of his shoes had saved him at the last moment. He jackknifed in the air, caught the rope with his hands, and continued to climb up. “Nicely done!” Sug-Yi shouted at him. Long Prosperity’s crew continued to spray the man with the high-pressure hose, treating him as a living flame spreading up the rope ladder. The greater danger to the man wasn’t the impact of the water against his body, but the temporary deprivation of air due to water filling his nose and mouth. Luckily, he was prepared. Pulling the clear visor down over his face, he continued his upward journey fearlessly. Eight meters, seven meters . . . A smile appeared on Sug-Yi’s face. She seemed to be watching herself from years ago, a young woman who had covered herself in saola scent and then squeezed herself onto crowded buses, subway trains, and ferries, ignoring the angry looks of those around her covering their noses, telling anyone who would listen that the most precious perfume, when made at the price of the extinction of a species, would turn into an intolerable stench. Countless people had asked her: was it worth it? She had answered countless times: yes, of course it was. Even if the entire world treated you like a troublemaking attention whore, as long as you held on to your faith, it was enough. The cargo crew shut off the high-pressure hose. Perhaps they’ve found a new trick? “They’re changing course!” shouted the speedboat pilot. Sug-Yi read the data off her goggles: Long Prosperity was turning toward Coltsfoot Blossom and simultaneously accelerating to twelve knots. This was an attempt to disrupt the speedboat’s mission without drawing the port authority’s attention. The speedboat began to bob up and down

more erratically from the cargo ship’s wake. The rope ladder twisted and swayed in the air like a snake, and the man on the rope was hanging on for dear life. “Accelerate and match course,” she ordered. “Keep it steady.” The man on the rope tried to keep climbing. His body contorted to adjust his center of gravity and posture, maintaining the stability and balance of the rope ladder. Five meters, four meters . . . he was like a skilled yoga practitioner dancing on a rope in the middle of a storm. Almost there. Sug-Yi held her breath and counted down in her head. The young man’s next task was to use suction cups to climb from the rope ladder’s attach point all the way up to the deck while dodging the crewmen. Once there, he’d have to chain himself to a container like Houdini—preferably after having unfurled the flag of the Coltsfoot Blossom Organization somewhere prominent—and then wait until the media and the Environment Protection Department showed up. According to the decision acquitting the six Greenpeace activists in the Kingsnorth Power Station case, as long as Coltsfoot Blossom could provide a “lawful excuse” tied to environmental activism, their actions today would not be deemed illegal. Of course, everything depended on whether the information they were relying on was accurate: that the containers on this ship, originating in New Jersey and bound for Silicon Isle, held the so-called Devil’s Gift, toxic waste capable of creating an ecological disaster. It was not a simple plan, but the hardest part was about to be completed. . . . two meters, one meter. The man was finally at the top of the ladder. But he didn’t put on the suction-cup gloves. Instead, he held on to the rope and swung back and forth, moving his body like a pendulum. “What’s he doing?” Sug-Yi asked angrily. “Thomas . . . likes parkour,” the young camerawoman murmured, and continued to film. So he’s called Thomas. These days, so many skilled and idealistic new members were joining the organization that it was no longer possible for Sug-Yi to know everyone’s name. Being young is a good thing. Most of the time. Thomas continued to swing as he anxiously calculated the distance and angle. The maneuver he had in mind would require him to let go when his body was at the top of the arc, leap through the

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air while simultaneously turning ninety degrees to catch the top of the gunwale. It demanded the utmost of his muscle strength, flexibility, and mental faculties. “Thomas, stop!” Sug-Yi shouted. “Don’t jump!” Too late. She saw that athletic, balanced body leap into the air, seeming to freeze for a moment in the wind, slowly and elegantly turning through a quarter of a circle, until his hands slapped loudly against the side of the ship. The steel plates vibrated while his body dipped under gravity. All he had to do now was to flex his arms and stomach to pull himself up and complete the beautiful gymnastic move. Sug-Yi got ready to applaud this daring performance. Maybe it was the wind, or maybe a patch of water left on the gun-wale, but there was an ear-piercing scraping against metal and Thomas’s hands slipped off. He began to fall irrevocably. Panicked, he grabbed on to the swaying rope ladder with one hand, but his momentum carried his whole body toward the hull of the ship. There was a loud, crisp crack from his visor, and his neck buckled, leaving his head at an unnatural angle. Thomas’s hands let go and he continued to fall. His body plunged into the sea in a noiseless splash, an indelible image. The young camerawoman was stunned. The lens next to her ear had captured the entire scene and the accompanying screams and cries. This video would later be played over and over in the media and on countless websites, and internet commenters would dub it a “recruiting ad” for the Coltsfoot Blossom Organization. The campaign slogan? “Youth does not mean stupidity.” Sug-Yi took in the scene, her mind dazed. She didn’t give the order to retrieve the body, neither did she move or show any expression. Is it really worth it? She didn’t know if she was asking Thomas or herself. Long Prosperity continued to accelerate and turn toward the speedboat. SugYi’s pilot, having received no new orders, didn’t take any action. Coltsfoot Blossom’s hull collided with the cargo ship and was pushed up, and the dull sound of metal being deformed filled the crew’s ears. They grabbed on to whatever was at hand, trying to avoid being thrown into the water from the tilting deck. Freezing seawater, full of whirling eddies and foamy, white spray, poured into the boat. Now the boat was really going down. Copyright © 2019 by Stanley Chen October 2019

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A Conversation with Stanley Chen

ates more and more e-waste and damages our planet. We have to make changes, starting from ourselves, and elevate awareness to the whole of society and all the stakeholders.

Discussing his views about the role of dystopian fiction, why he wrote Waste Tide, and what it means to be a writer

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tanley Chen is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and columnist. Initially released in 2013, his debut novel Waste Tide was translated to English by Ken Liu and published by Tor Books in 2019. It was named ‘The Best Science Novel’ at the 2013 Global Chinese Sci-fi Nebula Awards and is the winner of the 2019 Golden Globefish Most Valuable Sci-fi IP Award. A prominent talent in China’s science fiction community, Chen’s short stories have appeared in MIT Technology Review, Hong Kong Literature, and Science Fiction World. He is also the founder of Thema Mundi Studio, which manages his intellectual property and develops sci-fi content. Chen graduated from Peking University with a double degree in Chinese Literature and Film Art. –MC Photo courtesy of chenqiufan.cn.

When did your interest in dystopian fiction begin and did you know that your debut novel would be of this genre? It started from 1984 and Brave New World–two classic works of dystopian fiction. This was back in university. Before that, I mostly read optimistic, golden age science fiction. I didn’t know that I was going to write a dystopian novel. I just wanted to find the most proper way to tell the story. What inspired the world that you created in Waste Tide? Back in 2011, I visited my hometown, Shantou, and met my childhood friend, who mentioned a small town about 60 kilometers away from where we lived: Guiyu. Apparently, the American company he worked for had been trying to convince the local government to recycle e-waste, but some local authorities were standing in the way. “It’s difficult,” he said, a little too mysteriously, “the situation over there, is… complicated.” Something about his speech caught the attention of the sensitive writer in me. Intuitively, I realized there must be a deeper story to uncover. I took a mental note of Guiyu, and it later became the seed for the book. Do you consider yourself to be a futurist? If you define ‘futurist’ as someone who’s always seeking answers to the real issues 66

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and open to all possibilities, then you can call me a futurist. For me, it has nothing to do with predictions or being a prophet. Waste Tide deals with themes including capitalism, class struggle, and environmental degradation. What would you like readers to take away from the book? Waste is profoundly changing our society. The input cannot predict the output. Our daily, mundane world always treats waste and garbage as a hidden structure, as the whole ecosystem is beyond our sights. We want to maintain the glorious ‘outfit’ of contemporary life. Unfortunately, when someone takes advantage of something, others have to suffer for it. Just like class distinctions and economic exploitation, the international geopolitics of e-waste recycling comes down to power. The system must continuously be constructed or reshaped through complex engagements of mediators. We have to see the reality. We all benefit greatly from the fast-developing information society. Higher speeds, newer applications, and more compelling technologies have brought us a lot of opportunities to improve our efficiency and well-being. Meanwhile, the growing ‘throwaway culture’ is leading us toward the trend of disposing things and buying new ones, rather than keeping and repairing them. It seems to be a status symbol and social recognition for ourselves, but it only gener-

What do you make of the notion that many elements of translated works are lost in translation? It’s true and unavoidable. But what I care about is not what’s been lost during the process of translating, but what’s been added and reinvented afterward. There’s also a very interesting power dynamic among the cultures of languages in an imaginary community. In your opinion, how has the Chinese literary landscape evolved, and what do you anticipate for the next decade? From my perspective, the discourse and hierarchy of the Chinese literary landscape switched dramatically from an academia-centric one to a marketing and media-centric one over the past two decades. It has become more complicated and commercialized. Meanwhile, it got rid of revolution literature and the realism tradition to become more diverse. In the next decade, I am expecting a more complex interaction of literature, technology, and ideology. There will be no so-called ‘mainstream literature.’ Decentralization will happen in the literary arena, and a lot of sub-genres will emerge. Sub-culture communities will worship their own canons and classics. What does being a writer mean to you? It means I have the privilege of sitting at home, doing nothing for the whole day, and claim that I am really hard-working. Can you share a bit about what you’re working on now? I am working on the sequel to Waste Tide and a collection of stories that take place in 2041 with a space opera-style world-building. I have a lot of parallel projects going on. chenqiufan.cn Chen will be attending the 19th annual Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which will take place from November 1 to 10, 2019. He will be speaking on the ‘The Looming Shadow of Dystopia’ panel on November 4 and will be holding three workshops over the course of the festival. Visit [festival.org.hk] for more information.


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FICTION THE HANDMAID’S TALE: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

Unraveling The Handmaid's Tale Featuring an interview with Renee Nault about her graphic novel adaptation By MIN CHEN

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ritten by celebrated novelist Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is widely regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century literature. It has been translated into over 40 languages and adapted into a film, opera, ballet, Hulu television series, and–most recently–a graphic novel. Published a year after the imaginary future depicted in George Orwell’s classic 1984, the book explores second-wave feminist ideologies and is often viewed as a response to the Western world’s move toward hyper-conservatism led by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. But what keeps readers coming back, adaptation after adaptation, is the universality of its themes–social hierarchy, complicity, language as power, women’s ownership of their bodies–and ultimate message of hope. The Tale takes place in the Republic of Gilead, an oppressive, totalitarian regime that rules over what was once the United States. Pollution and disease have led to low fertility rates, leading the upper class to bear children through Handmaids–women who are enslaved for the sole purpose of reproduction.

Above: Canadian illustrator Renee Nault, who was hand-selected by Atwood to adapt her dystopian classic. Photo courtesy of reneenault.com. Right: A selection of concept art by Nault. Copyright © 2019 by Renee Nault. 68

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Offred–the protagonist and narrator–is a Handmaid who was forcibly separated from her husband and daughter during the Gilead insurrection. After her capture, she was detained at a re-education facility, the Red Center, to be indoctrinated as a Handmaid and sent to the home of the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Offred is only able to interact with others when she leaves the Commander’s home on shopping trips and even then, the state’s secret police–the Eyes–watches her every move. She becomes entangled with members of Mayday, an organization working to overthrow the Gilead government, and must reconcile her passive inclinations with an environment of resistance. The book’s epilogue, ‘Historical Notes,’ is a transcript from an academic conference in the year 2195, after the fall of Gilead. Professor Pieixoto, the speaker, analyzes the regime and the historical authenticity of Offred’s story, noting that her fate is unknown. The Tale is an exemplar of the feminist and dystopian genres; the latter fits under the umbrella of speculative fiction–encompassing fantasy, sci-fi, alternate history, and horror–which has played a defining role in the course of Western literature since the 18th century. With roots tracing back to Jonathan Swift’s A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms (1726), speculative fiction is, by nature, an exercise of imaginaGraphic novels tion that evokes values relevant offer a completely to a contemporary audience. different way Instead of merely being a to experience a snapshot of the times, the Tale goes a step further to become a story. They can means for readers to make sense flow seamlessly of their existence, irrespective of between reality time and place. The New York and more surreal, Times published an essay by fantastical Atwood in March 2017, where she addressed inquiries into the imagery. book’s genre. She suggested that it fits under “the literature of witness” because “Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it.” This, Atwood explained, is “an act of hope.” Similarly, David Ketterer argues in Science Fiction Studies that ‘Historical Notes’ sets the Tale apart from other dystopian works because it reveals that Atwood was not only concerned with the events that led to the formation of a despotic state, but also the circumstances that paved the way for its eventual demise (‘The Handmaid’s Tale: A Contextual Dystopia’). He adds that the implied cyclicality of power points to the notion that all sociopolitical systems will one day become yet another page in history. Perhaps what endears the Tale to subsequent generations is how it has become a vehicle for readers to bear witness to and rectify the injustices they perceive. To many, it’s a profound reminder that civil liberties, which took decades or even centuries to establish, can be eroded before our eyes. In 2017, a group of women protesting a U.S. Senate healthcare bill that cut funding for Planned Parenthood dressed up as Handmaids while demonstrating on the steps of the United States Capitol. Similar events have taken place across the country in what is viewed as a unified pushback against the patriarchal values that have bled into U.S. politics in recent years. In Ohio, it was to protest a bill criminalizing abortion and in New Hampshire, it was to call for the resignation of a state representative who participated in a Reddit forum that shares misogynistic content.


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CONCEPT ART

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FICTION THE HANDMAID’S TALE: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL FICTION

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To say that Atwood’s book–or any speculative work for that matter–is a cautionary tale would be overly simplistic. With its far-reaching influence, speculative fiction can be molded to the readers’ world, engendering new meaning with every reading and adaptation. The most recent interpretation is by Canadian artist and illustrator Renee Nault. She began her career as an illustrator after graduating from Sheridan College in Ontario, and her work has appeared in books, newspapers, magazines, and advertisements around the world. Primarily working in watercolor and ink, Nault is known for her use of vivid colors and the imaginative worlds she creates. Her interest in comics led her to study the storytelling medium. Nault’s interpretation of the Tale, which was published in March this year, is her first graphic novel. What led you to pursue adapting the Tale when the publisher contacted you? I was very excited to adapt this book. I first read it in high school and I’ve loved it since then. I was really honored to be chosen to turn it into a graphic novel. What notable challenges did you face in taking on this project? There were many challenges. One of them was to compress the novel, which is quite long, into a much shorter form without losing the essence of the book. Another was to find ways of conveying the main character’s inner world, since so much of the story takes place in her thoughts and memories. Did the source material’s socio-political themes affect the way you approached this project? Yes, very much. Unfortunately, the themes of the novel resonate just as strongly today as when it was written. In America, the rise of far-right extremism seems to eerily mirror the rise of the Republic of Gilead.

because they present a worst-case scenario. If we can see this scenario play out in our heads, we can imagine how it might be prevented or changed. At worst, we can imagine how we might survive it. Where do you draw inspiration for your artwork? My visual inspiration comes from many different places–Art Nouveau and Art Deco, early 1900s book illustrations, Ukiyo-e prints, fashion, and cinema. I also travel a lot and take a lot of pictures.

What does the medium of art offer that is missing from novels or television? Graphic novels offer a completely different way to experience a story. They can flow seamlessly between reality and more surreal, fantastical imagery. They offer the reader a chance to follow the panels at their own pace, pausing to absorb the images that impact them personally.

What is your storytelling method? In the book, a lot of the story takes place in Offred’s inner monologue. I wanted the art to reflect that inner world–to be personal, symbolic, and surreal. I would describe my storytelling in this book as very intuitive. I let Ms. Atwood’s prose inspire images in my mind, and tried to translate those images onto the page as naturally as I could.

Have you always been drawn to the dystopian genre? Yes. I think dystopian narratives attract us

An artist wears many hats, exploring every aspect of life from identity to politics to faith. How do you view your role as

an artist? I’m not sure, and it’s something I struggle with a bit. There are stories in my head that I want to tell–some might be important, others less so. I think, as an artist, I have to follow my inspiration and hope others are also inspired by what I create. What are you currently working on? I’m working on a series of short comics to be published as an anthology. I’m also continuing my watercolor fantasy series, Witchling. There are interesting projects coming up that I can’t talk about yet. reneenault.com Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief. Nault will be attending the 19th annual Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which will take place from November 1 to 10, 2019. She will be speaking on the ‘The Looming Shadow of Dystopia’ panel on November 4 and will be holding two workshops over the course of the festival. Visit [festival.org.hk] for more information. Left and right: A selection of concept art from the graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale by Nault. Copyright © 2019 by Renee Nault. October 2019

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FEATURES RISECONF 2019

All Hail the Handsome Rambler Hannibal Buress talks tech investing, Melvina Masterminds, and the process of discovery

By MIN CHEN

Left and right: Buress preparing for and engaging with the audience on his RISEConf 2019 panel, ‘All Jokes Aside.’ Photos courtesy of RISEConf. 72

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hey’re rich, they’re famous, and they work harder than you–we’re talking about the celebrities who are turning to the tech world to grow their already-impressive personal wealth. Ashton Kutcher, Jay Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jared Leto are all artists who have backed some of the most successful startups today. Also in the lineup of this savvy group is Hannibal Buress [hannibalburess.com]: comedian, actor, podcaster, philanthropist, and investor. Buress was a highlight at RISEConf 2019 with his investment approach that both informed attendees and left them in stitches. Jumpstart spoke with him at the conference to learn more about his diverse career path and a venture that is especially meaningful to him. After falling in love with stand up while he was attending Southern Illinois University, Buress rose to prominence quickly and is known for his strong comedic voice and effortless storytelling ability. He became a respected talent through his work as a writer on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and went on to star in several hit films, including Neighbors, Nice Guys, and Spider-Man: Homecoming–often stealing the show with his signature deadpan delivery. He’s also known for his work on

Comedy Central’s Broad City, his Netflix special Hannibal Buress: Comedy Camisado, and his podcast Handsome Rambler. The type of portfolio companies he takes on are as eclectic as his roles in the entertainment world. On his RISEConf panel ‘All Jokes Aside,’ Buress discussed how startup success is guided by prolific idea generation and making sure the idea connects with your audience, which is similar to his creative process. He says that he’s drawn to companies that spark something in him. “If it’s a product where I immediately start thinking of ideas for them, how to promote or how to expand, then that’s usually a company I’ll invest in,” he adds. His current portfolio includes Patreon [patreon.com], a monetization platform for creators; cannabis vaporizer company,

If it’s a product where I immediately start thinking of ideas for them, how to promote or how to expand, then that’s usually a company I’ll invest in.


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Pax [pax.com]; San Francisco-based roastery, Red Bay Coffee [redbaycoffee.com]; beauty app for women of color, Bonnti [bonnti.com]; and VisuWall [visuwall. com], an online B2B marketplace that monetizes vacant commercial real estate. Despite already juggling multiple projects, Buress has also turned his attention to the non-profit space with his tech and art center on the West Side of Chicago, Melvina Masterminds. Named after the block he grew up on, Melvina Masterminds is a space for the community’s youth to convene, express themselves through the arts, and develop skills that will create opportunities for them in today’s techdriven industries. “It was just me wanting to create a space that I didn’t have when I was growing up, where a kid who’s not into sports just has a space to try something else,” says Buress. Buress has been a longtime supporter of local youth initiatives, but felt detached from the process of solely making monetary donations. He realized that he wanted to execute his vision for his former neighborhood, as “it is something that [he] couldn’t wait for somebody else to do.” This vision not only encompasses empowering the younger generation, but also elevating the area.

“The neighborhood where I grew up–it’s very residential and it’s not a destination neighborhood in Chicago,” says Buress. “So I want to make that area a place where people from outside the area could come to hang out and have a movie theater, music venue, cafe, and make it kind of a great spot.”

It was just me wanting to create a space that I didn’t have when I was growing up, where a kid who’s not into sports just has a space to try something else.

Melvina Masterminds is still preparing for an official 2020 launch; so far, the center has organized events around coding, 3D printing, AR/VR, and esports. Buress hopes to test the waters in the coming months and curate events based on the

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community’s feedback. He and his team are also planning to organize programming around music production, writing, and art in the future. “We can really use these events to gauge what people are enjoying, so I’m really excited about this kind of discovery process,” says Buress. The approach of continual discovery also informs Buress’s professional decisions. When asked about how he chooses his projects, Buress says that it all comes down to: “If I think it’s gonna be fun to do it, then I do it.” Fans have a comedy special to look forward to, which he filmed on August 10 in Miami, with other tour dates spanning the remainder of the year. Those of us in the startup circuit may get to meet Buress again at the next big tech conference, as he’s attracted by the crowd they draw. He says that “it’s always fun to just see what people are really passionate about and the range of ideas, from very serious stuff to trivial things.” Like comedy, entrepreneurialism is about taking the right risks. While they may not always pay off, it’s this passion that gets companies off the ground and has the audience coming back for more. Tune in to Buress’s musings on Instagram: @hannibalburess. Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief.

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FEATURES RISECONF 2019

The Art of Retail President of JD AI Bowen Zhou discusses the need for collaboration as a way forward for smart retail and AI By MIN CHEN

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ith China’s tech giants embracing smart retail in recent years, it’s safe to say that a revolution has arrived in the space. While rivalry may typically characterize such a narrative, technologists and business leaders alike have pushed for a more collaborative course toward the country’s vision for the future of retail. One proponent of this approach is Vice President of JD.com and President of JD Artificial Intelligence (JD AI) Bowen Zhou, whom Jumpstart had the opportunity to interview before his talk at RISEConf 2019, ‘The Promise of AI: From retail to the rest of the world.’ Zhou is a renowned computer scientist who has published over 100 articles on topics including deep learning, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing. With the intent to advance his research to impact the real world, he joined IBM in 2003 and took on the roles of IBM Watson Group Chief Scientist and Director of the AI Foundations Lab of IBM Research before being appointed to his current position at JD.com in 2017. He was attracted to China’s AI sector because he considers it to be “a center of gravity” for both the development of core

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China is unmatched with its rich dataset and it’s an environment that can stimulate innovations to benefit from technologies such as AI–that’s a key reason that draws me to this amazing journey. technologies, and solutions that lower costs and improve current applications. “China is unmatched with its rich dataset, and it’s an environment that can stimulate innovations to benefit from technologies such as AI–that’s a key reason that draws me to this amazing journey,” says Zhou. JD.com is China’s largest retailer, a dominant player in the country’s tech landscape, and the third biggest Internet company in the world after Amazon and Alphabet (JD.com). With an assetdriven business model–where the company manages purchasing, storage, fulfillment, and a direct sales channel–JD.com has grown tremendously since its ecommerce platform launched in 2004. The company reported RMB462 billion (US$67.2 billion) in net revenue in 2018 and saw the number of user accounts reach a jaw-dropping 320 million as of the second quarter of this year, which accounts for around 40% of all Internet users in China (JD. com). For JD AI, the aim is to deploy these resources to empower every aspect of retail through integration. “When you consider the value of AI, you need to go beyond a single point,” says Zhou. “What is the entire lifecycle of the industry, and how can we design from the top?” He explains that this design approach entails connecting all of the isolated AI applications in the company’s infrastructure–such as enhancing offline shopping experiences, supply chain, and customer feedback–to fully digitize the retail process. The data will Below: Zhou speaking on the RISEConf 2019 panel, ‘The Promise of AI: From retail to the rest of the world.’ Photo courtesy of RISEConf 2019. Right: Zhou answering questions on the Q+A stage following his panel.


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then be shared with upstream retail operations, such as manufacturing, R&D, design, marketing, and logistics. “This is what we call ‘from customer to manufacturer.’ That’s a goal we have at JD AI,” adds Zhou. JD AI is moving quickly to make this goal a reality. Notably, it has partnered with Fung Retailing Group to launch Hong Kong’s first AI-powered checkout at two Circle K shops. The computer vision-based system is capable of facilitating a four-second checkout time by recognizing up to five items per second with an accuracy rate of 97%. “We’ve deployed this for three months now. So far, the system hasn’t misrecognized anything and more importantly, the speed of checkout time is up by 30%,” says Zhou. He anticipates this type of checkout station to be launched at scale soon, especially in cities like Hong Kong, where long queues can lead to revenue loss. The collaboration is the first part of developing an end-to-end system that will manage inventory, pricing, storage, and other smart retail experiences for the two companies. For Zhou and his team, the mission is to not only accelerate retail innovation within JD.com, but to do so for China as a whole. The challenge they’re facing is tempered growth resulting from the general maturation of the innovation sector over the past decade. Having a great idea is no longer enough, and companies have to outperform in every way to break through the noise. “If you want to succeed in applying technology such as AI, you need to fundamentally think about: does this save cost, does this improve efficiency, and does this enhance the user’s expe- by advancements in AI that bring its behavior closer to that of rience? You’ve got to have one of them; if you have all three of humans. He explains that intelligence and language develop them, fantastic. But if you have none of them, then your product hand-in-hand, as humans learn through conversation and readis probably premature,” says Zhou. ing. If a machine is also able to internalize knowledge by reading He adds that having a long-term view of the industry is also and interacting with humans and other machines, then it would essential for creating value, which requires a visionary leader and be able to draw conclusions without copious amounts of data. resource-intensive algorithmic and statis“The most exciting would be comtical research. For startups, Zhou advises bining reinforcement learning and natWhen you consider the that they focus on vision, as they may ural language understanding capabilities, be lacking in resources. To help fill this so a machine doesn’t have to be trained value of AI, you need to go gap for some startups, JD AI launched beyond a single point. What with tons of data to recognize a cat from a global AI Accelerator last year, where a dog,” says Zhou. is the entire lifecycle of the it will provide technical guidance–and From an application perspective, he’s industry, and how can we in many cases, funding–for accepted fascinated by the intersection of AI and companies, in addition to training and other cutting edge technologies such as design from the top? mentorship. 5G. Zhou uses the example of remote “The companies I’m looking for have surgery to explain how AI can synergize a clear idea about what problems they’re addressing. As long as with 5G’s high density and low latency functionalities; AI imaging they are clear about that, we can help them with our technolo- can be used to analyze the patient’s condition in real-time to help gies,” says Zhou. surgeons make decisions on the fly. Combining 5G and AI, JD AI An example is FaGouGou, an AI-powered legal consultancy is currently researching how to create customized broadcasting in that was a part of the program’s first cohort last year. JD.com pro- anticipation of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. vided the startup with access to its speech recognition technology, “The audience sees the same video, but if you are a proficient AI algorithms, and legal data to aid the development of a chat- skier, you would want to see detail in the technique. And if you bot. This proof-of-concept has already been rolled out to many of are a beginner, you want to see more of the playback. CombinJD.com’s suppliers, partners, and merchants. ing AI with 5G will essentially enable a personal director working Although the role that startups will play in China’s retail revo- your TV, where it can synthesize, generate, and combine video lution looks promising, a shortage of tech talent in the country is content personalized for you with no latency,” says Zhou. another obstacle to growth. Zhou believes the Accelerator is also While it’s difficult to predict what’s to come in 50 years for a the answer to overcoming this scarcity. technology as pervasive as AI, Zhou does leave us with the idea “There are countless ways people can benefit from AI, but to that “there’s a tendency for people to overestimate what we can make this happen, we need talents who understand AI and have do in the short-term and underestimate what we could do in the industry know-how,” he adds. “That’s why it’s very important for long-term.” us to build and empower a community and an ecosystem.” We’ll take that as a cue to let our imaginations run wild. Looking ahead and beyond retail, Zhou is most excited Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief. October 2019

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FEATURES RISECONF 2019

Digital Solutions for Developing Communities What to consider when building fintech solutions for financial inclusion By NAYANTARA BHAT

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ith the wide range of digital solutions on the market and smartphone penetration at an all-time high, financial exclusion ought to be a thing of the past. But adoption rates of such solutions amongst women in rural communities still aren’t high enough to make a real impact, despite countless applications promising to digitize cashbased economies, bank the unbanked, and encourage saving. The primary institution tackling global financial inclusion is Women’s World Banking (WWB), a non-profit organization founded in 1976 to serve women who have been left out of the formal banking system. It is the largest network of microfinance institutions in the world and has broadened its scope to include policy advisory, investment, and consultancy on digital financial products. The current WWB President and CEO, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, has held the position since 2006, overseeing the rollout of countless digital solutions in the years since. Jumpstart spoke to Iskenderian at RISEConf 2019 to learn more about introducing and optimizing fintech products in developing communities.

A complicated tapestry “One big takeaway, that is absolutely consistent across pretty much every market we’re working in, is that the relevance to women really has to be proven. You can’t assume that what is relevant to men is going to be relevant to women,” says Iskenderian. WWB takes a behavioral approach to how they look at financial products, as countless implicit cultural factors can affect the adoption of new technology.

Any time they have a greater sense of control over their resources, you really start to see that take shape in their sense of selfesteem, their sense of decision-making power in the household, or at least their voices being heard. 76

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This lesson was reinforced in a recent case study on engagement strategies for women in Nigeria. WWB worked with mobile banking vendor Diamond Yello to acquire and retain more female users of the service. In the early stages, it was clear that the onboarding process was reasonably straightforward, and the company didn’t encounter issues in this area. The problem was the number of dormant accounts, as women weren’t finding any relevant use cases that encouraged them to continue using the app. “The women would say, My husband and I divide up the things that we pay for. He pays utility bills, and I pay school fees,” says Iskenderian. “If there were a way for them to pay school fees digitally, we would’ve had a different story.” A similar project in Pakistan with mobile wallet vendor JazzCash yielded different, but equally telling results. The acquisition of female customers stalled because of one major, easily-overlooked problem: a male-majority agent network. “If that intrepid Pakistani woman went into that male-owned shop, she then had to give her cellphone number to him […] which in that culture, was just really, really difficult,” says Iskenderian.

thing that allows women to overcome barriers like collateral for lending, or additional sources of information that get fed into a credit score. If your fintech is disrupting these processes, it can be a real opportunity to serve women,” she says.

Technology offers new avenues

Catering to female users

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any traditional financial institutions still don’t see a business case for serving women. Iskenderian believes that this is an opportunity for fintech startups to grab a slice of the pie, and data from past efforts has highlighted that it’s quite a sizeable pie. “Women are better repayers, and they’re stickier savers. In both developed and developing countries, women buy more insurance than men do,” Iskenderian says. The problem is that in many formal banking systems, women are treated as second-class citizens. In India, for instance, much of the resistance to banking stems from unpleasant experiences of being treated poorly, or not understanding how to use ATMs and other services. But once they were shown how to use the products and services, and it was demonstrated that they would work reliably every time, women became some of the most loyal customers. “Women have done very well with peer-to-peer lending platforms, and anyJumpstart interviewing Iskenderian at RISEConf 2019 following her ‘Serving the unbanked: Can fintech be a force for good?’ panel.

The women would say, ‘My husband and I divide up the things that we pay for. He pays utility bills, and I pay school fees.’ If there were a way for them to pay school fees digitally, we would’ve had a different story.

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hile the number of digital solutions is increasing in leaps and bounds, more needs to be done to reach women and provide a relevant enough service to retain them. World Bank data from 2014 to 2017 on select Asian and African countries shows stark discrepancies in adoption rates and the type of products that succeed among women. For instance, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe showed much higher adoption of digital payments and mobile money accounts than South and Southeast Asian countries. Comparing the lowest and highest numbers, 0.8% of Pakistani women and 69.4% of Kenyan women used mobile money accounts in 2017, representing a 64% decrease in Pakistan and a 26% increase in Kenya. That said, digital payments (isolated from mobile money accounts) have grown exponentially in South Asia; the number of digital payments made and received by women in Bangladesh increased from 4.3% in 2014 to 21.2% in 2017. WWB’s projects around the globe have uncovered many unquantifiable

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insights about women’s financial behavior, and the complex dynamic between married couples in countries where many important monetary decisions are still reserved for men. For example, in cases of employed women who were previously paid in cash and are now paid directly to their bank accounts, their husbands are no longer able to access their hard-earned money. There is an understanding that money in a formal institution should be treated with respect, and this, in turn, is having a positive effect on the way women conduct themselves. “Any time they have a greater sense of control over their resources, you really start to see that take shape in their sense of self-esteem, their sense of decision-making power in the household, or at least their voices being heard,” says Iskenderian. Women’s unofficial role as household ‘risk mitigators’ is showing through in WWB’s research. The availability of digital credit and mobile money has uncovered a unique trend: while convenience is still important to women, they also appreciate having a separate account that makes it harder to access their money. This belief of keeping savings inaccessible is characteristic to women, and a preference that WWB has never heard from a man. Although WWB’s roots lie in their microfinance network, technology has allowed the organization to partner with an ever-widening spectrum of companies, ranging from banks and insurance companies to telecoms and retailers. In fact, in some African countries, retailers like grocery stores are some of the foremost providers of financial services. WWB’s commitment to technology can also be seen in their position as a founding partner of Facebook’s Libra, the social media titan’s offering to the digital assets space. Combining Facebook’s formidable reach with WWB’s client base– most of whom are the world’s low income and underbanked–could be a golden opportunity to boost inclusion. As the case for financial inclusion becomes stronger and the benefits more tangible, it can be expected that the explosion of fintech products will narrow down to address specific problems in innovative ways. With new technologies, a greater understanding of the issue amongst policymakers, and better availability of data, there may be a key to unlocking the barriers holding the world back from greater inclusion. Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Editorial Associate. October 2019

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FEATURES RISECONF 2019

eager to capitalize on new sponsorship opportunities. It’s not necessary to be a gamer to get a glimpse into the massive esports industry. A 2019 Newzoo report predicted that industry revenues would hit US$1.1 billion this year, and $1.8 billion by 2022. Recently, a worldwide Fortnite competition saw the first place winner, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf, rake in $3 million from the staggering $30 million prize pot.

Disrupting, Diversifying, and Expanding Gaming E New technologies are opening the doors to gamer paradise By NAYANTARA BHAT

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ost players in the FIFA World Cup don’t have the luxury of taking a short fishing break mid-game to decompress. But when one is competing in the virtual world, it’s possible to indulge in a couple of minutes on the riverbank to catch a few trout when the pressure gets too intense. The past few years have seen a global shift of epic proportions–a rapid rise of interest in both gaming and its professional equivalent: esports. Gaming was, until recently, enigmatic to those outside of the community. With the amount of inappropriate language, sexual content, and violence in popular games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto, the gaming community was reputed to consist solely of teenagers and young men. Now, thanks to new offerings like Fortnite, which can be enjoyed by all ages, gaming is becoming a favorite activity for all. On a parallel and equally explosive track is the esports industry, which allows gamers to compete in tournaments that usually involve a significant amount of prize money. Now that people can and do manage to earn money as gamers, there’s been an uptick in professional gaming interest, where international brands are

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Leveling up

sports tournaments are broadening to include not only multiplayer online battle arena games like Fortnite and Dota, but racing games including Forza and Gran Turismo. At the forefront of the move to popularize professional simulated racing is McLaren, best known for their Formula One racing team and sleek, powerful sports cars. McLaren’s foray into the world of esports began with a competition called World’s Fastest Gamer, which was run in collaboration with esports racing company Ideas+Cars before evolving into an in-house program called Shadow Project. “The name infers that we are trying to shadow the work we do on the real track,” says McLaren Esports Director Ben Payne. Shadow Project invites fans of racing games to compete in rounds until a winner is established. The winner is then offered a place on McLaren’s simulated racing team. Unlike tournaments like Fortnite’s, where all entrants are playing the same game, Shadow Project is hosted across multiple games and can be entered via a console, mobile phone, or PC. Also, unlike games that simulate team sports like FIFA and NBA 2K, the skills picked up in simulated racing are transferable to the real world. “We put [sim racers] in cars, and they show no fear and seem not to be worried because they know the tracks. They’ve driven that track more than anybody else–more than real motorsport racing car drivers. It’s wonderful to watch,” says Payne. Another technology being widely utilized to enhance the gaming experience is VR. While much of the hardware development is coming out of Silicon Valley, Europe is a hotbed of activity for VR software development. Resolution Games, a Sweden-based publisher working exclusively on VR projects, has teamed up with Angry Birds creator Rovio to produce a VR version of the hit game, and has several other immersive family-friendly games under its belt, including AR fishing game Bait! Co-founders Tommy Palm and Martin Vilcans started working on Bait! as one of their very first games because they believed a relaxing activity like fishing would be able to showcase the great things about VR, while still providing some excitement. In Palm’s view, VR adds another dimension to games, as it allows players to use their hands to interact with objects. However, it’s just one of the technologies currently being tested in this space. Multiple stakeholders–Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud among them–are experimenting with cloud gaming, which would allow players to stream games from the Internet rather than downloading them onto their devices. When cloud gaming was first introduced, it promised to level the playing field, eliminating issues with lagging and graphics rendering faced by devices with less processing power. All the heavy lifting would be done by a remote server, leaving the PC or console to simply display the feed. The one glaring issue with feeding all the processing to a remote server is that its success is directly proportional to Internet speed, and until recently, the Internet had limits. The advent of 5G is changing this. 5G has been touted as the key to unlocking boundless depths


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If you can get that millennial age bracket–affluent, spending money, tech-savvy, loyal– that’s ticking every brand on the planet’s box, right? BEN PAYNE Far left: Jumpstart interviewing Resolution Games’ Palm at RISEConf 2019. Left: Payne speaking on the ‘Game on for Esports’ panel at RISEConf 2019. Photo courtesy of RISEConf 2019.

of efficiency across industries and gaming is no exception. The theoretical maximum 5G speed of ten gigabits per second, which is a hundred times faster than 4G, would undoubtedly unlock the cloud gaming dream. “I wouldn’t tether 5G–pardon the pun–just to mobile,” says Payne. “5G will allow you to set up an esports event with PCs, just using a 5G dongle. It’s expensive to run LAN competitions, but 5G would allow those costs to be shrunk in certain scenarios.” But with regulatory boundaries and security concerns, 5G has been slow to roll out commercially on a global scale. On the VR front, despite a growing number of vendors driving prices down, we’re still a ways off from seeing a device in every household. Palm hopes that new products like the wireless, lower-priced Oculus Quest headset will make it easier to introduce people to VR, setting a course for higher adoption numbers.

Changing culture

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igher adoption numbers for gaming have sparked a massive monetary inflow into esports. Newzoo’s report identified increased advertising revenues, sponsorship deals, and media rights to tournaments as the three factors driving growth in the industry–a finding echoed by Payne. “If you can get that millennial age bracket–affluent, spending money, tech-savvy, loyal–that’s ticking every brand on the planet’s box, right?” he says. “So that’s why Coke, VISA, Mercedes, are all spending in the sponsorship space, and more will come.” Allowing multiple games and formats have helped McLaren to bridge the gap between fans of different platforms. With so many different titles available for players to choose from–Forza, Gran Turismo, and Real Racing, to name just a few–opinion is divided on which is the best. When geographical borders come into the mix, even more titles are added to the list. As Payne explains, hundreds of millions of people play QQ Speed in China, but the game is not available outside Asia. “In a way, virtual F1 racing is more exciting than real F1 racing because all 20 cars are the same. They’re just different colors on the track,” says Payne. McLaren’s efforts have made it possible to diversify and glo-

balize the Shadow Project, although they are still pushing new initiatives to remedy the gender imbalance common to esports events. In addition, McLaren and other game publishers have a new strategy in mind: age diversification. Many of the most popular games are age-restricted for violence, nudity, and other characteristics that make them inappropriate for younger audiences. Due to this, there’s a growing market for cleaner games, suitable for children or for individuals who aren’t interested in ‘serious’ gaming. This market is precisely the one that Resolution Games is targeting. “We’ve always said that we wanted to build games that would fit the entire family,” says Palm. “We know that people who buy [VR] headsets are more hardcore gamers in general, but they typically have family who wants to try the device. Bait! works really well for that.” As futuristic as VR already seems, its applications go far beyond gaming and immersive entertainment. The technology allows the creator to build a highly-specific environment and experience, which can be applied to everything from interior design to tactical military missions. One application that Palm predicts will be increasingly useful in future cities is the ability to create a VR work environment to allow for more efficient remote working in teams. “As cities grow, it’s becoming increasingly more and more difficult to get to the center of the city at the same time as everybody else,” he says. “We’re already seeing trends of people being able to work from home and not having to do that commute everyday, which I think is very good for the environment.”

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nce the stomping ground for teenage boys and young men, ‘bro’ culture, and rampant sexism, esports is opening up gaming, allowing it to permeate into new industries and become more accessible for children, non-gamers, corporations, and more. There are now more ways than ever to get involved in gaming and, on the other side of the equation, more ways to tell a story to a customer. “No one knew what Fortnite meant two years ago, and now my kids are dressed head to toe in that stuff,” says Payne. “So you have to expect that these things are going to keep coming, and just embrace the changes.” Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Editorial Associate. October 2019

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Never in Short Supply The future of social media and mobile photography with VSCO Co-founder Greg Lutze By MIN CHEN

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s we gain more insight into technology’s effect on our well-being, we become more demanding of the companies that create it. At Facebook’s F8 developer conference in April this year, the tech giant announced that it would be testing several features intended to benefit users’ mental health. One major update is that the number of likes for Instagram posts will be hidden from all users except the account holder. The feature was introduced to Canadian users in May and is being tested in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. Such changes are a response to multiple findings that have linked social media use to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. For instance, a 2018 study conducted by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that “limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.” While Facebook is only now beginning to move away from metrics, one company has been ‘likes-free’ from the start. Launched in 2012 by Visual Supply Company Co-founders Joel Flory and Greg Lutze, VSCO–previously named VSCO Cam–is an application that features a built-in camera, photo editing tools, and a digital gallery for users to share photos, GIFs, and videos. VSCO brought in US$50 million of revenue last year and is currently valued at an estimated $550 million (Forbes). The company has raised $90 million to date, with investors including Accel and Glynn Capital Management (Crunchbase). Known for its clean interface and analog-inspired filters, or ‘presets,’ VSCO has been a formidable player in shaping the aesthetic of the Instagram generation, even though the founders initially set out to 80

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build a tool and community for prosumers. Creatives by trade, Lutze and Flory first worked together to release an Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop filter pack. With one million downloads in the first month, they quickly shifted their attention to mobile.

If you look around, there’s a lot of depression, body dysmorphia, anxiety, or just fear of missing out on things. By removing the popularity metrics, if you will, you can just be who you are.

The majority of VSCO users today weren’t even old enough to own a smartphone when the app was surging in popularity following its launch, as 75% are a part of Generation Z (VSCO). Lutze and his team hope to create a sanctuary for this demographic, who are most affected by the social pressures of having to create a manicured personal brand to grow a following and bring in ‘likes.’ “If you look around, there’s a lot of depression, body dysmorphia, anxiety, or just fear of missing out on things,” he says. “By removing the popularity metrics, if you will, you can just be who you are.” VSCO’s user-centric model also applies to its measured approach to product diversification, where the company relies on data to bring about a more personalized experience for its artsy audience. New features are first rolled out to a portion of

users, so the team can gain an understanding of how they will perform. But it’s been a learning process; Lutze says that this approach was implemented after the team realized that they should have “started the process of research, user testing, and all of that much sooner.” “We spend a lot of time trying to understand what motivates you, what you’re interested in, whether you’re a pro, or whether you want to express yourself and just have fun with friends,” he adds. In 2017, the company launched a premium membership plan, which is a $20-a-year subscription that includes exclusive presets, educational content, and additional tools such as a video editing feature. While introducing a paid subscription is typically considered a risky move, it proved to be a success with VSCO’s loyal community, allowing the company to further monetize without advertising. The number of paid subscribers reached two million in 2018 and is projected to double by the end of this year. To remain ahead of the competition, the company also continually upgrades its technology. It has introduced a GIF-editing function, DSCO, to rival Instagram’s Boomerang. SENS, the app’s proprietary real-time image processor, now supports all iOS video formats up to 30 frames per second (FPS) at 4k and 60 FPS at 1080p with no size or length restrictions. Currently, Instagram supports 30 FPS at 1080p with a maximum file size of 4GB and a length of 60 seconds. On the deep tech side, VSCO has a dedicated machine learning team to continually refine its proprietary algorithm, Ava, which suggests content to users based on their photography style. Ava not only matches users based on color and composition, but more abstract elements like emotion as well. “For Ava, we wanted it to be something that is more human, even if that something maybe is a little subjective or flawed from a technical standpoint,” says Lutze. “It needs to feel real.” For users, the app’s interface and presets remain its key differentiators. The company’s overarching design philosophy is minimalism in terms of look and functionality. Lutze compares designing the app’s interface to that of a hotel: “if you’re in a hotel room, you don’t want thirty different coffee cups if you want coffee; you just want one or two, and you want to know where it is–right next to the coffee machine.” “What our brand stands for, as well


RISECONF 2019 FEATURES

as the aesthetic of it, plays a big part in how you feel when you come in. We try to translate the brand language into the actual product,” he adds. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the VSCO team should be pretty pleased with themselves. VSCO filed a lawsuit against PicsArt this year; in a statement released by the company: “at least nineteen presets published by PicsArt are effectively identical to VSCO presets that are only available through a VSCO account.” VSCO has been a fixture in the mobile Lutze speaking on the ‘Delight by design: The art behind winning customer experience’ panel at RISEConf 2019. Photo courtesy of RISEConf.

photography space since founding, and its game-changing interface will soon be applied to other types of media as the company grows. Lutze says that the team is looking at ways to expand design, collage, and other tools for creative expression that are of interest to their community. With 500 million people using Instagram every day, it will be difficult for niche platforms like VSCO to get on the same playing field in the immediate future (TechCrunch). But as more and more tech companies come around to putting the needs of users above the needs of advertisers, those that get there early will likely stand the test of time. Min is Jumpstart’s Editor in Chief.

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In 5 0 y e a r s. . .

I don’t think mobile photography will actually exist. I think we’ll probably have some sort of contact lens or implant in our eye that is constantly downloading information, capturing it in video format, and saving it to some cloud. It’s very Black Mirror. Also, I think there will likely be AI to read the quality and composition of the image to assess the emotion that you feel. It tracks when you see something that causes a moment of joy and allows you to capture that.

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How to Make the Impossible, Possible Asia: A target for a mission By JORDAN LEE

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s the world’s population increases, demand for meat is bound to grow exponentially and unsustainably. The human population currently clocks in at 7.7 billion and is estimated to hit 9.7 billion by 2050, with Asia accounting for 60% of this number (Worldometers). Meeting the enormous demand for meat is no small feat and leaves no small environmental footprint. A study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that a kilogram of beef takes 15,415 liters of water to produce. Over the years, vegetarianism and veganism have seen a boom in Asia, ushering in companies like Impossible Foods, which hopes to occupy the prime spot in the market. Impossible produces plant-based products, using proprietary technology to create substances that are remarkably similar to the look, texture, and taste of real meat. They are used as meat substitutes for any recipe, without the negative environmental impact that arises from traditional farming. Impossible Foods Senior Vice President Nick Halla has over ten years of experience in farming, commercial food development, and renewable energy. He was drawn to the company because its mission aligned with his own: spearheading the development of cleantech to bring about a more environmentally sustainable world. Jumpstart spoke to Halla at RISEConf 2019 to understand Impossible’s trajectory as it expands its footprint in Asia.

Since Patrick O. Brown founded Impossible in 2011, the company has seen its products appear on the menus of more than 8,000 restaurants throughout the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau. With an average annual revenue of US$85 million, Impossible has secured almost $700 million across 12 rounds of funding from investors such as Bill Gates, Serena Williams, Viking Global Investors, and most recently, Horizons Ventures. The company’s focus now is scaling its production and pushing its R&D further. “The only way we are going to change the way consumers and meat-eaters look at these products is to make a product that they like better than the meat they get today,” says Halla. “It has to be a product that is more delicious, more nutritious.” Impossible has spent eight years working to understand what makes meat attractive to consumers. Rather than imitating a veggie burger, it is trying to break through to meat eaters with a product that delivers the same sensory experience. Such efforts have led to the discovery of the heme protein, which is responsible for the uniquely meaty flavor and aroma found in Impossible meat. “Asia is where 44% of global meat is consumed today, and [demand] is growing very fast. Food safety and food security are big challenges,” says Halla. Given the market size, Impossible needs to expand its reach to Asia in order to achieve their vision of overhauling the global food system, which requires some adjustments to its previous strategies. “To start breaking that stigma that plant-based meats are going to taste like a veggie burger, we started at a higher price because Left: Some of the original ingredients used to manufacture Impossible meat. Above: Little Bao Founder May Chow, named in 2017 as Asia’s Best Female Chef by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, was among the first to introduce Impossible Foods to her menu. She’s pictured with the ‘Impossible Bao.’ Photos courtesy of Impossible Foods.

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A lot of our work was to be able to build a product that can transcend that dichotomy, where it can work in places like Momofuku, but also work in places like Burger King. that’s a signal of quality,” adds Halla. Impossible sold its meat at a premium to eminent chefs in Hong Kong and globally to launch the product, building credibility through the endorsements of the world’s top food connoisseurs. While the strategy of expanding through chefs and restaurants still holds, the product’s cost will be reduced in SEA, as it is imperative to keep the product accessible to generate demand. Understanding the culinary culture in a country is a vital step for Impossible before they decide on the appropriate localization strategy. Some of the biggest global meat markets include the U.S., China, the European Union, and Brazil. These sizeable markets–particularly China–need to be addressed promptly for the company to capitalize on first-mover advantage. “China is much more complicated than Hong Kong is, so we have to do more work in places like China to understand the consumer,” says Halla. “The consumer in Guangzhou and the consumer in Beijing are also quite different. The culinary scene is very different.” Overcoming the perception that plant-based meat is made from tofu or beans is another challenge for Impossible, and the company has loftier goals than being labeled an ‘alternative’ to meat. Halla cites the example of Tesla; in the automotive industry, electric cars were once described as an ‘alternative’ to gas-fuelled vehicles, but Tesla challenged themselves to create the best car, not just the best electric car. This exercise in design and branding changed consumers’ perception of electric vehicles. Similarly, Right: The audience at the ‘Meat from plants isn’t just possible...it’s inevitable’ panel at RISEConf 2019 were treated to Impossible sliders. Below: Halla speaking on the panel with Greater China Restaurant Company Group Executive Chef Uwe Opocensky, who serves Impossible Foods in his restaurants, which includes Beef & Liberty. Photos courtesy of RISEConf 2019.

Impossible aims to deliver a product that can be used in equal measure to that of meat by high or low-end restaurants. “A lot of our work was to be able to build a product that can transcend that dichotomy, where it can work in places like Momofuku, but also work in places like Burger King, which have very different customer needs,” says Halla. Now that the course is set to replace animals as a source of food by 2035, Impossible has a great deal of work to do. One of their most successful products, the Impossible Burger, is an excellent testament to the company’s long-term vision. Each burger uses 96% less land, 87% less water, and releases 89% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to that of your traditional patty. “I think there’s a bright future for our food system,” says Halla. “It’s going to be majority plant-based because that’s more sustainable and efficient. To feed seven, going on ten billion people, we have to have that.” Jordan Lee is Jumpstart’s Journalist in Residence.

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QUICK TAKE SPONSORED CONTENT

Jumpstart Kids 2019 The summer program is back with another fun-filled week By KELLY CHO

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umpstart Kids is a non-profit summer program that teaches kids aged eight to 12 about innovation and entrepreneurship through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math). The third edition took place from July 22 to 26, and was led by 13 instructors from various industries. The week began with a tour of the experiential lab at The Mills Fabrica, a revitalization project by Nan Fung Group. The ‘kidtrepreneurs’ learned about 3D design, prototyping, and used a laser embroidery machine. They also visited the incubator space, took part in a workshop

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with Origami Labs on design thinking, and customized watches with EONIQ. The remainder of the week was filled with informative and interactive sessions, and took place at theDesk in United Centre–the co-working operator’s newly opened space located in Admiralty. This year’s instructors included Paul Smith from the Kelly Yang Project, a leading writing and debate center for students. He introduced the concepts behind selling products and public speaking to the kids. Gyneth Tan from Clean the World, Bertha Shum and Ching Ching Cheung from Earthero Project, and Christian Yan

from Nanoleaf offered insightful lessons on topics ranging from social enterprises to sustainability. Derek Kwik, BraveSoldier Venture Capital Managing Partner, led a cooking class and storytelling session with his dachshund, Tommy the Salami. Other sessions included Kung fu with Sam Experiences Co-founder Maggie Lau and Master Victor Cheung, logistics planning with Boxful Deputy General Manager Stephanie Chow, robotics with Winson Kwok, t-shirt design with Chicks Marketing and Business Development Manager Jennifer Tam, hardware design with Doki Technologies Founder Casper Chien, and coding with Richard Chan of MakeBlock. For each session, the kidtrepreneurs were encouraged to think outside-the-box, share ideas, and collaborate. The intent was for them to gain critical thinking and leadership skills to benefit their academic careers. Each day ended with some time for journaling, where the kids reflected on what they learned that day. Jumpstart Kids has grown year-on-year since its founding in 2017; this year was especially meaningful because around 50% of participants were scholarship students. With the aim of encouraging innovative thinking within the next generation, program coordinators hope to expand Jumpstart Kids in the coming years and work with more entrepreneurs who are passionate about education. An illustrated book about the kidtrepreneurs’ journey will be published later this year. Please email [info@jumpstartmag. com] for more information about the program and how you can get involved. Jumpstart is the organizer of Jumpstart Kids. jumpstartacademy.org


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BOOK REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

non-F ic tion

F ic tion

The Water Cure

Digital Minimalism

A dark allegory in disguise

On living better with less technology

There is a fluidity to his movements, despite his size, that tells me he has never had to justify his existence, has never had to fold himself into a hidden thing, and I wonder what that must be like, to know that your body is irreproachable.

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hen read literally, Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure is set in a dystopian world where most of the women have succumbed to toxins produced unknowingly by men. Alone on an island with their parents and sheltered from the poison, three sisters grow up together, learning how to protect themselves from men. This vision of the world is uncomfortable enough when imagined in a literal sense, but the metaphorical elements are as, if not more, terrifying. As the plot progresses and new lines are drawn, the parallels between The Water Cure and our world start to become undeniably clear. Control, victim-blaming, and toxic masculinity are three themes that seem to reverberate right off the page. The girls’ father, for instance, subjects his family to torturous “therapies” intended to stifle all emotion–for emotion, in his view, makes women vulnerable to violence by men. The entire novel is permeated by a grim and eerie sense of rising urgency, intensified by the slow pace of the writing. Reading this book felt like trying to run through steadily-deepening water, in the best possible way. Mackintosh’s writing evokes a constant sense of dull panic, and is so engaging at times that the real world can feel off-kilter after a long stretch of reading. Apart from the well-crafted prose, what stood out was the ending of the book. I wanted the conclusion to go somewhere inspiring and truthful, and it did–but not in the way that I had imagined. The Water Cure is a dark, thought-provoking story that stays with the reader long after the book ends. It’s not quite a summery, poolside novel, but it’s worth a read nonetheless. –NB penguinrandomhouse.com Cover art courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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any a time I’ve caught myself tumbling down social media rabbit holes–that is, until I feel like my behavior is leading me toward a Black Mirror-esque fate and I promptly set my phone down. Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism has proven to be the perfect blueprint for me to break this cycle of hyper-connectivity. The book is divided into two parts: Foundations and Practices. Foundations examines the psychological underpinnings beneath our fraught relationship with technology. It also introduces the “digital declutter”–a three-step hard reset that needs to be performed before the philosophy can be internalized. Building upon the economic principles of optimizing returns, the declutter involves a 30-day digital sabbath, where optional technologies are avoided to identify the ones that are valuable enough to retain. Practice outlines how digital minimalism can be adopted sustainably with actionable advice synthesized from Newport’s survey of 1,600 people who performed the declutter in 2018. The technology we use to color our solitude stymies creativity and originality; this is where the chapters “Spend Time Alone” and “Reclaim Leisure” come in handy. Not only are they packed with evidence-based advice, but force the reader to reconsider their relationship with solitude. This section also recommends intentionality in online habits; scheduling what Newport terms “low-quality leisure” helps corral the distracting influence of tech. Each chapter closes with a collection of practices aimed at easing the transition into a minimalist lifestyle. While these practices are by no means ground-breaking, advice like “Take long walks” and “Leave your phone at home” are a good place to start. The writing is instructional, but doesn’t feel didactic. Although Newport’s various references to Walden and Lincoln’s solitary retreats can feel tedious, they provide scaffolding to his advice and make it more compelling. At its core, the book embodies the gospel that less is more and serves as a guide to overhaul our online behaviors before the attention economy completely hijacks our digital autonomy. –KA penguinrandomhouse.com Cover art courtesy of Penguin Random House. October 2019

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LIFESTYLE ENTERTAINMENT REVIEWS

P od c as t

Sandra The hegemony of technology

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truggling to escape her dreary hometown and ongoing divorce drama, Helen (voiced by Alia Shawkat) gets a job at Orbital Teledynamics, a secretive tech company responsible for the creation of an Alexa-style personal assistant named Sandra. Unlike Alexa, Sandra (Kristen Wiig) is operated by humans who respond to queries and have access to every scrap of information that there is to know about a person. Think Siri, but dialed up to a hundred. t v ser i es

Love, Death, & Robots Bite-sized science fiction that packs a punch

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ove, Death & Robots (LDR) is an anthology of animated, adult-oriented stories that premiered in March on Netflix. Produced by Tim Miller and David Fincher, the series has 18 episodes spanning genres from sci-fi to fantasy, and horror to comedy. They are mostly adapted from short texts by sci-fi writers including Alastair Reynolds, Michael Swanwick, and John Scalzi, with a few originals as well. The production also features worldclass animators. The series is highly experimental in terms of structure. Unlike conventional series that are usually half an hour to one-hour long, all LDR episodes are under 20 minutes. Some are even as short as six minutes, with their length tailored according to the style and purpose of each story. This structure enables a more flexible and effective means of storytelling. With brilliant animation quality, the team challenges the boundaries of the genre to broaden our imagination and present the plots in compelling ways. The content itself is more controversial. It has been criticized for featuring gratuitous nudity and violence, and its problematic, male-gazey representation of women. Some sci-fi fans also find some plots predictable and repetitive. Since the show prioritizes variety over consistency, the epi88

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If the omnipresence of the Amazon Echo unnerves you, then Sandra’s role as a kind of friendly Big Brother will leave you rattled. Sandra is essentially every AI skeptic’s worst nightmare: a machine which has all the best qualities of a computer and, unfortunately, the impulses of a human. As Helen begins to humanize her role as personal assistant to the masses, her desire to help leads her into increasingly gray territory. One area that Sandra excels in from the beginning is in its observation that even with the best intentions, technology can facilitate the most destructive human behaviors. Sadly, such insights are undercut by a lackluster plot. While I appreciate the move away from the specter of rogue AI that has been done and overdone–2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, I Robot, and most recently, Ex Machina are all testament to society’s AI complex–the notion that the ‘person’ behind the curtain is just a person seems archaic, if not absurd, in 2019. Sandra doesn’t have enough bite to make me feel truly troubled by the vision of AI that it presents, and any success it does achieve in this field is first ignored and later undone when the story takes a narrative nosedive in its penultimate episode. Technology is liberating, but it naturally gives power to those who can wield and manipulate it best. Sandra is at its most commanding when it addresses the increasing hegemony of technology and the morality of giving anyone, or anything, the ability to monitor human behavior in the way that we do. If Sandra had a more potent narrative and a clearer conception of what it wanted itself to be, it might be a convincing allegory about the dangers of sharing so much of ourselves with a medium that is ultimately easily corrupted. Instead, it settles for a domestic drama-cum-sci-fi thriller that fails to commit to either genre successfully. The podcast benefits from strong performances from its cast and an interesting premise, but never manages to achieve more than this. –RN gimletmedia.com Cover art courtesy of Gimlet Media. sodes vary in quality. But there are a few standout ones: ‘Three Robots’ has some light-hearted dialogue in a post-apocalyptic city and is an exploration of humanity from robots’ perspectives. ‘Aquila Rift’ discusses the perception of reality in a failed space mission; it is based on texts written by Alastair Reynolds and has a stunning ending. LDR is so eclectic that it’s impossible to give one-size-fits-all remarks about it. For those who are unsure, I would say give it a go. Skim and skip the ones that don’t appeal to you, and find out for yourself what the top talents in the industry have to offer. –KC netflix.com A scene from ‘Aquila Lift.’ Photo courtesy of Netflix.


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LIFESTYLE PRODUCT REVIEWS

SonarPen The most affordable smart stylus on the market

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dvancements in hardware have transformed the digital art space, allowing a new medium for illustrators and designers. However, like most new technologies, accessibility is an issue, where many creatives and hobbyists can’t afford the necessary tools. SonarPen Founder Elton Leung wanted to find a solution to this problem by creating the most affordable smart stylus on the market. With a background in mechanical engineering and computer science, Leung spent two years developing the product, which only costs US$34.50. SonarPen is a solid alternative to its pricier competitors. It features pressure sensing, palm rejection, and a shortcut button. It connects directly to your device’s audio port, so it doesn’t require charging, and is compatible with Apple and Android

VAGO Smallest way to get the biggest luggage space

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s someone who hates waiting at baggage claims, I try to avoid checking in luggage at all costs. But packing light can be a challenge for longer trips, so a bit of help is sometimes needed. VAGO is a device that compresses clothing and other soft items by vacuuming out the air from a storage bag, allowing you to fit up to 50% more stuff into your suitcase. While vacuum storage bags are noth90

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devices. The downside is you can’t use headphones when using the device, and the tip–which is a tiny plastic disk–takes some getting used to. With the SonarPen costing around one-fifth the price of the Apple Pencil 2, it’s sure to open doors for budding artists or students who would’ve otherwise not taken the plunge in purchasing a stylus. I

can’t speak to its usability for professionals, but I was impressed by how easy it was to use for a novice. The SonarPen is compatible with a number of apps, which are listed on the website. It is available on Amazon and in a range of colors. –MC sonarpen.com Photo courtesy of SonarPen.

ing new, VAGO’s compact design is what helps it stand out from the rest. It only measures 70 mm in length and weighs 85 grams, making it an easy addition to any trip. It can also be charged using a micro USB, so no travel adapter is required for use on-the-go. VAGO is extremely easy to operate: place your items into the storage bag, seal the ziplock closure, screw the device onto the bag’s attachment, plug it into a socket or power bank, press the ‘on’ button (which will switch on the orange light), and wait for the compressor to do its job (after which the light will turn green). It’s convenient that the device has a smart sensor, so it turns off after the bag has been fully compressed. One downside

is that it can take longer than expected for the air to be vacuumed from the bag–a few minutes depending on the size–but this is understandable given VAGO’s size. Also, compressed clothing will naturally be more creased once it’s removed from the bag, which is something to consider. VAGO is a great travel companion for families or those who love to shop while on vacation. The device is currently available in black, white, pink, and purple, and comes with one medium-sized bag. You can purchase VAGO in various online and offline retailers, and pre-orders are available on the VAGO website. Prices start at SGD 99 (US$ 73). –MC vago.com.sg Photos courtesy of VAGO.


PRODUCT REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

mininch Xcissor Pen The most affordable smart stylus on the market

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ounded in 2014, mininch is a Taiwanese industrial design company that makes simple and compact tools to provide elegant solutions for everyday tasks and fixes. The founding team is made up of experienced designers who have won awards including the 2013 iF Product Design Award and the 2012 Red Dot Design Concept Award.

mininch’s most popular product, the Tool Pen, is inspired by the ‘pop-a-point’ pencils from millennial childhoods. It includes 13 different screwdriver bits that can be swapped out by removing the bit at the front and pushing it into the hole in the back to reveal a new bit. Effectively a portable toolkit of screwdrivers, the Tool Pen raised more than 35 times its Kickstarter goal of US$7,000. We tested mininch’s Xcissor Pen, which is simply a pen with a scissor attachment at the end. While the concept is straightforward, the mininch team executed it beautifully. It’s heavy, comfortable to hold,

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and the scissors are of high quality. The full set also comes with an art knife, which can replace the pen attachment. We can see this tool as being especially useful for architects or product designers. Is this product essential? That would be a no. But does it make mundane tasks a bit more enjoyable? A resounding yes. The Xcissor Pen comes in silver and black, and retails on the mininch website for $66. The company’s other products include a mini version of the Tool Pen and a wrench tool called WRENCHit. –MC mininch.com Photo coutesy of mininch.

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EVENTS

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Betatron Cohort 4 Demo Day July 4, 2019 Hong Kong Stock Exchange

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etatron is a Hong Kong-based tech accelerator founded in 2016 by some of the city’s leading VC firms, including Mindworks Ventures, Vectr Ventures, Cocoon Ignite Ventures, the Aria Group, IC Studio, and Incu-Labs. Its portfolio consists of 29 startups from a range of industries; cohort four featured hardware, proptech, logistics, traveltech, and ecommerce, to name a few. Program Director Michael Wojcieszek started the evening by sharing Betatron’s recent milestones. Notably, it placed number one in the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Asian Startup Ecosystem 2019’ category for Greater China by Pitchdeck Asia. The first startup on the stage was Tespack, a company that develops portable energy-storage solutions for rescue forces. Tespack Founder Mario Aguilera spoke about his military background and how it led him to develop such technologies as an ultra fast-charging power bank, which can fully charge a smartphone in eight minutes. The company has also introduced a kidnap-proof backpack for journalists and other aid workers in war-torn countries. Another memorable presentation was by HPCD Lab, a software-as-a-service platform that helps companies optimize their cloud storage usage through machine learning technology, saving the typical customer up to 40% on their cloud storage costs. HPCD Lab’s proprietary algorithm offers a simple solution for the exponentially expanding cloud computing market, where related expenses often rank at the top of CTO concerns. Other startups included Realinflo, a crowdsourced real estate database; PackMojo, a low-volume packaging platform connecting suppliers to consumers; ZuBlu, a travel website for scuba divers and marine life lovers; TextMercato, a full-stack tool that helps ecommerce companies onboard sellers and catalog products; EcoMatcher, a platform that allows companies to adopt trees; and TruckLagbe, a booking app for trucks. Having built a strong reputation for its founders-first approach, Betatron guarantees up to US$150,000 of investment, a workspace, and hundreds of hours of hands-on mentorship for their portfolio. Such efforts are all to prepare the startups for institutional funding rounds; the accelerator boasts an average 17.5 times of follow-on funding within one year. Cohort five, which will run from September 16 to December 13 this year, is expected to bring in over 500 applications. –MC betatron.co HCPD Founder Ruslan Dautov. Photo courtesy of Betatron.

Seedstars Hong Kong July 4, 2019 the Hive Studios

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eedstars Hong Kong brought together some of the best early-stage startups and pit them against each other for a chance to participate in the Seedstars World Summit. Startups from Hong Kong with minimum viable products and a maximum of US$500,000 of funding were invited to apply to the local competition. Twenty startups were then selected to attend training sessions led by the Seedstars team in collaboration with other mentors. Using stringent vetting procedures, the mentors chose eight of them to compete, including: • • • • • • • •

iBebot Limited: IoT company that works on intelligent environmental well-being products Mindfio Limited: Mindfulness platform that tracks mental wellness through biofeedback technology GoByBus: Platform for inter-city and X-border travel for people in Asia Fulfillment Bridge: Cloud-based ecommerce logistics platform that offers warehousing services Wonderkin Limited: Elderly care app that provides products and health alerts MedEXO Robotics: Wearable assistive technology company for the elderly, injured, and people with disabilities Meo: Air analytics company that advises corporations on employee wellness and productivity Renobro Company Limited: Renovation project management mobile application

The jury consisted of five investors: Leo Chiu (Click Ventures CTO), Jennifer Cheng (New Chic Capital General Partner and Founder), Dennis Plomp (Nest.vc Principal), Raymond Yip (Zeroth.ai Partner) and Atin Batra (Q Venture Capital Principal). Following a round of questions, Wonderkin was named champion, while MEO and MedEXO took second and third place, respectively. Wonderkin Co-founder Fiona Li related her experience of being a “first-time entrepreneur” and recognized that advice like that provided by Seedstars’s mentors can ease the otherwise tough entrepreneurial journey. In addition to mentorship, the exchange of ideas facilitated by the program was a valuable part of her experience. As the winning startup, Wonderkin will compete with other Asian startups for a chance to represent the region at the World Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland. –KA seedstars.com The day’s winner, Wonderkin, with the jurors and organizers. October 2019

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EVENTS

RISE Conference 2019 July 8 - 11, 2019 Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

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ISE, Asia’s largest tech conference, convened for its fifth edition this summer, bringing together some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and investors to discuss the effects of tech on business and society. Along with the more than 16,000 attendees, this year’s RISEConf featured 385 speakers who turned each stage into a bazaar of ideas and insights with a schedule packed with panels. Left: GIPHY Founder and CEO Alex Chung. Right: Citizen’s Mark Founder Cynthia Salim speaking on day two of RISEConf 2019. Photos courtesy of RISEConf 2019.

The conference focused on 5G telecommunication technology, AI, autonomous driving, esports, and entertainment with its star speakers: Uber CTO Thuan Pham, Didi Chuxing CSO Zheng Bu, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, and YouTuber Wendy Ayche. The following were some of the highlights from the conference: • • • • •

Thuan Pham (Uber CTO) discussed the company’s progress throughout the years and its post-IPO plans Cecilia Qvist (Spotify Global Head of Markets) shed light on the platform’s expansion into international markets Hannibal Buress (comedian and actor) focused on how entertainers influence people’s experience of the world Alex Chung (Giphy Founder and CEO) explained how online expression is evolving Elie Seidman (Tinder CEO) spoke

Reimagine Education Challenge July 27, 2019 MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node

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RISEConf shone on the logistics front with the RISE app. Not only did it help keep tabs on the goings-on, but it also transformed the four-day conference into a networking wonderland. One quick scan of an attendee’s QR code revealed their details and saved their contact to your account. With a global tech community housed under one roof, this was undoubtedly the most valuable networking tool available to the attendees. No other conference in the Asia-Pacific region attracts such high-profile speakers and startups at the top of their game. Whether you want to connect with industry experts, scope out the competition, or look out for the latest tech trends, RISE is the place to be. –KA riseconf.com

and funding opportunities to further the mission. At the first-ever ‘Pitch and Learn Day,’ 56 carefully selected startups pitched to a panel of 19 judges, including Founder Institute HK Director Leo Ku, CoCoon Co-founder Theodore Ma, Outblaze COO Lobson Chan, and PwC Director Albert Wong. The winners this year are: •

n a push to reinvent education in Hong Kong, former HKSAR Financial Secretary John Tsang founded Esperanza, launching the Reimagine Education Challenge as a first initiative. The overall aim is to provide startups focusing on education solutions–be it a product, service, or other learning experience–with networking

about adapting the app to cultural differences in the ways people connect and interact

Startup Track: Tecky Academy (digital skills education) and MagiCube (STEM education) Social Enterprise Track: Design for Hong Kong (creative education for dyslexic students) and Boundless (mentorship program for high potential secondary school students from underprivileged backgrounds)

“There is an urgent need for us to reflect [on] the purpose and meaning of education,” said Tsang. Tsang believes improvements in the education system is the way forward for the city. ‘Esperanza’ meaning ‘hope’ in Spanish. –JA esperanza.life Tsang welcoming guests. Photo courtesy of Esperanza.


EVENTS

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KineticOne 1-Day Accelerator July 8, 2019 Garage Society, Wan Chai

ineticOne, Asia’s first one-day startup accelerator for logistics and supply chain companies, successfully completed its first demo day with five startups. The judges were GoGoVan Co-founder Reeve Kwan, HKUST Entrepreneurship Investment and Support Head Johnnie Yuen, and HKSTP Corporate Venture Fund Manager Leo Luk. Various industry experts were also in attendance to network. The first cohort was made up of BookAirfreight, Rice Robotics, Anapi, Haulio, and ParcelPerform. Helping startups refine their business models, develop internal tracking metrics, and

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The STILE Initiative Cohort 1 Information Night August 1, 2019 The Wave, Kwun Tong

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aunched last year by Stan Group and Jumpstart, The STILE Initiative is Asia’s first residential incubation program and provides a funding package valued at US$100,000. The fourmonth program culminated in an ‘Information Night,’ where startup teams from its first cohort unveiled their products to a network of investors and partners. The evening kicked off with a welcome message from the program’s co-creator and SG Ventures Executive Vice President, Mark Sims. Next on the stage was Stan Tang, founder of The STILE Initiative and founder and chairman of Stan Group. He shared that Stan Group has founded over 50 companies in the past seven years and facing the challenges in doing so, despite Stan Group’s vast resources and network, urged him to support the innovation sector. “Innovation and collaboration are the most important,” said Tang. “Not only for us corporates, but society.” He was followed by The STILE Initiative Co-organizer and Jumpstart Media Managing Director James Kwan. Kwan said that 80% of the teams have signed MOUs, and have proofs-of-concept, commercial contracts, or agreements under negotiation. Additionally, 60% of the teams received outside investment during the program. “What I most liked about this program is that we had an amazing community. The old saying it takes a village is so true

enhance customer reach, KineticOne is a platform for Mount Parker Ventures to source innovative companies to invest in. –YS kineticone.co Haulio Co-founder Alvin Ea. Photo courtesy of KineticOne.

for The STILE Initiative,” he added. The program’s lead mentors included BraveSoldier Venture Capital Managing Director Derek Kwik, PlayNetwork Asia Pacific Managing Director Leo Ku, Metamorphosis Biz Founder Giovanna Melfi, UBS Head of Innovation Technologies Cat Rüst, and former CPPIB Asia Senior Portfolio Manager Prem Samtani. Other mentors and supporters included Eureka Nova Incubation Hub Assistant General Manager Ben Wong, Hanson Robotics CEO Jeanne Lim, Wellington Legal Partner Joseph Chow, Maxim’s Group Head of Branding and R&D David Leung, Radiant Tech Ventures Managing Partner Gordon Yen, investor Drew Chan, and Stan Group Group Marketing General Manager Jenny To. “I was glad to help remarkable founders,” said Melfi. “It was clear the motto was: Hard work and humbleness are fundamental to achieving long-term success.” The evening’s highlight was the presentations by the teams. They included: •

Butterfly FX [butterflyfx.co]: A platform to connect lenders and small business borrowers using an inclusive,

• • •

alternative credit rating model Portfolio.io [portfolio.io]: A userfriendly portfolio manager for crypto assets Flow [flowtheroom.com]: Helps shorthaul city travelers find a quality hotel room or office space for less than a day Butler [getbutler.com]: Provides onestop professional services solutions for apartment residents, businesses, property managers, and building owners Liquefy [liquefy.com]: Enables digitization of assets–such as private companies, funds, and real estate–through blockchain technology

“The cohort is connected to various business units of Stan Group to collaborate as partners. With commercial agreements signed, Liquefy is well positioned to be the leading tokenization platform in Asia,” said Liquefy Founder Adrian Lai. Interested applicants should be startups that have at least two founders, are pre-Series A, and are beyond the ideation stage. –MC stileapac.com The program organizers, mentors, and teams. Photo courtesy of Stan Group.

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ONE LAST QUESTION

What sci-fi gadget do you wish were real? Hear from our interviewees and contributors

One of my favorite sci-fi gadgets is the brain-computer interface. It’s a little thing that you stick on your head to communicate directly with your computer through your thoughts. I’m very slow at typing on phones, and I’m not in the habit of using gestures or voice commands (plus, speaking to your phone in public is awkward), so a really easy, intuitive, and high-bandwidth input device would be helpful. Carter Huffman

The Real Deal with Deepfakes (pg. 26)

I would say these pods you see in movies like Elysium or some Alien remakes, where you scan, diagnose, and heal someone in minutes. If something like that existed, it would be a great advancement for mankind. Ignacio Nieto Carvajal

Running a Remote Team (pg. 20)

I would love to have a droid companion like in Star Wars. We’re already seeing cases of humans falling in love with robots, so the commercialization of these intelligent gadgets would undoubtedly alter the way we view relationships in the future.

A teleportation device that you wear on your wrist. It could teleport you to anywhere on Earth and intergalactically. You could be anywhere at any time in a matter of seconds.

Min Chen

‘Zero Waste’ and Process Efficiency for Gaining and Retaining Customers (pg. 21)

I wish universal translators like the ones in Back to the Future or Star Trek were real. Pop one into your ear, and you’d be able to communicate with every creature in existence. While the instantaneous grasp of any and all human languages would definitely be a plus, imagine being able to tell your dog how much you love them and knowing that they understand you.

A light-speed drive feels like the clear winner. The ability to span worlds and even galaxies would solve a breathtaking number of problems, but even more so, I just imagine all the wondrous things to be found in space. If time was no object, who wouldn’t want to go adventuring to see what we might discover?

Khadija Azhar

The Real Deal with Deepfakes (pg. 26)

Neuralink. I have a crazy theory that our empathy for one another may increase if we all have the capacity to understand others’ thoughts. It could also end pretty badly, but I’m optimistic.

I’d choose the Antman suit. Just think about the possibilities: you could sneak into any meeting or top-secret gathering you want. If the Airport Express is down, one step could take you straight into the heart of Central. Game changer.

As Gold As It Gets (pg. 45)

Parul Bhandari

Mike Pappas

Catch Me If You Can (pg. 60)

Michael Chan

Chibo Tang

The New Insurance Market (pg. 10)

The Future Arrives (pg. 9)

It would have to be a shrinking gun. Imagine being able to shrink down all of your baggage when you travel–how convenient would that be? Think of all the other incredible applications, too.

It would be incredible if a theme park like in Westworld existed, where you could throw yourself into a physically immersive and realistic fantasy world. Ethical issues aside, how cool would it be to become a card-carrying cowboy for three days?

Jasmine Alberts

Running a Remote Team (pg. 20)

Nayantara Bhat

Digital Solutions for Developing Communities (pg. 76)

This idea actually came to me in a dream: An immersive VR diary app. All you have to do is input the time, location, and people involved, and the whole event is then virtually generated for you. And you can revisit these memories whenever you please. One major reason I wish it were real is that in our fast-paced lives, we rarely have the time to reflect and record moments that are important to us. Kelly Cho

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Profile for Jumpstart Magazine: The Entrepreneur's Magazine

Jumpstart Issue 27: Future Cities