10 Startups Up For Awards At Silicon Dragon
Silicon Dragon has narrowed the list of contenders for its Founder Awards to a group of 10 young startups in Greater China. These 10 finalists come from Beijing, Shenzhen, Taipei and Hong Kong, and represent a range of technology sectors, from drones to IoT to e-commerce and smartphones. Their financial backers hail from Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Beijing, Bangalore and Taipei, and range from prominent cross-border VC firms such as Sequoia Capital and Accel to angel investors.
The winners will be announced November 5 in Hong Kong at Silicon Dragon’s Venture/Founder Awards event.
Silicon Dragon will also present its Venture Capitalist and Dealmaker Award of the Year at this event. Prior winners include Jenny Lee of GGV Capital, Tina Ju of Kleiner Perkins and Richard Liu of Morningside Ventures.
- EHang (Shenzhen)
When consumer smart drone company EHANG raised its $42 million Series B in August of this year, its valuation was driven up 100 times higher than 16 months ago, when it was established. EHang is the fastest-growing company in the drone industry. Backed by GGV Capital, ZhenFund, Lebox Capital, OFC, GP Capital and PreAngel Partners, Ehang is headquartered in Shenzhen, with branches in Beijing, Shanghai and San Francisco. GGV’s Series A investment in EHang was the biggest Series A investment in the firm’s 15-year history and was led by managing partner Jenny Lee. PreAngel principal Kai Jiang previously headed up U.S. operations for EHang for one year before joining the Beijing and Silicon Valley-anchored angel investor early this year.
With the new funding, EHang has been staffing up its managerial ranks alongside co-founder Derrick Xiong. Four senior executives with experience at global 500 and public hi-tech companies including 21Vianet, Lenovo and Microsoft, have been recruited to help EHang scale up.
EHang’s Ghost Drone product has been sold in 70 countries. The product, which is intended for aerial photography missions, is controlled by smartphone. It uses a unique app control, creating a user experience that has changed the drone industry’s traditional control methods. EHang’s drones have been applied in industries including filming, news gathering, search & rescue, and investigation & monitoring.
- Lamplight Analytics (Hong Kong)
Founded in 2014, Hong Kong-based Lamplight Analytics provides brands with real-time social media intelligence across the Asia Pacific region, in order to better target and influence Asian customers. It does this by analyzing billions of social conversations via a suite of specialized tools, which work in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Malay, and Bahasa Indonesia. Lamplight’s tools pick up more than 20 million individual sources.
The startup recently raised an initial $1.5 million – one of Hong Kong’s larger seed investments — from Vectr Ventures, family and friends, angel investor Martin Haigh, and “unnamed brands.” Alan Chan led the investment for Vectr, a Hong Kong-based firm that backs early stage companies globally and incubates portfolio companies to establish Asian operations.
The startup’s founding trio — Sam Olsen, Fergus Clarke, and Nathan Pacey — saw from experience that there was a lack of tools designed to help companies navigate Asia’s social media landscape. CEO Olsen had a brief stint working in swaps for Goldman Sachs before serving as a captain and intelligence officer in the British Army and later joining security risk management company Kroll as a managing director in Hong Kong for nearly three years.
- OnePlus (Shenzhen)
Created around the mantra “Never Settle,” Shenzhen-based OnePlus was founded by former Oppo Electronics employees Pete Lau and Carl Pei in December 2013. With seed funding from undisclosed sources, the company released its first device, the OnePlus One, in April 2014 in 17 markets worldwide. The phone was sold through an invite system beginning in June, and the company sold 1 million devices through the end of 2014.
The OnePlus received positive reviews on specs, performance and design. Daringly, it was priced at half the amount of other flagship devices with similar specs—a quality that the founders have attributed to the low cost of marketing, as well as reduced profit margins and a model of selling directly to the consumer. Within 72 hours, the OnePlus 2 had 1 million reservations. To date, the company has grown to just under 900 people, with offices in Bangalore, Singapore and Taipei. It is not yet profitable.
- Pinkoi (Taipei)
Taipei-based Pinkoi, branded as “Asia’s Etsy,” is Asia’s large online marketplace for unique and original design goods. The site was launched in 2011 by Peter Yen, Maibelle Lin, and Mike Lee. Prior to founding Pinkoi, Yen and Lin worked in Silicon Valley, where Yen was a senior engineer lead at Yahoo. The founders wanted to increase the profile of independent designers in Asia.
Today, Pinkoi has 2 million monthly users and 25,000 sellers throughout Asia. Users from more than 63 countries have made purchases on the platform. The startup employs a selection process of designers, using curation to ensure quality and offer a wider range of products. Pinkoi has 50 employees and additional offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, and San Francisco.
In September, the startup raised $9 million in new funding from Sequoia India and GMO Ventures, and launched an English-language site. Early backers (dating from 2011) of Pinkoi include angel investor Matt Cheng of Cherubic Ventures in San Francisco, Beijing and Taipei, and former Adobe venture investor Akio Tanaka, a co-founder of Infinity Ventures, which invests primarily in China and Japan.
- Shopline (Hong Kong)
Founded in 2013 and incubated by U.S.-based accelerator 500 Startups in 2014, Shopline is a Hong Hong-based DIY e-commerce platform co-founded by Raymond Yip, Fiona Lau and Tony Wong. The platform, which lets sellers create online shops in Asia, prides lies on its simplistic setup process, native language support, regional payment methods and the fact that the entire experience is optimized for mobile. Shopline also holds e-commerce seminars twice a month in Hong Kong and Taiwan to help educate merchants about going online.
As of early 2015, Shopline had helped to create more than 15,000 shops, with top sellers earning up to $35,000 in revenue each month. Taiwan is its fastest-growing market. The team has grown to over 25 employees in the span of one year.
The startup landed a $1.2 million seed round in February of this year, led by 500 Startups and Ardent Capital, with participation from East Ventures, COENT Venture Partners and SXE Ventures.
Leading the deal in Shopline for Hong Kong-based seed and early stage investor SXE Ventures is founding Partner Danny Yeung, who is also CEO of biotechnology company Prenetics.
- DJI (Dajiang Innovation Technology Co., Shenzhen)
Headquartered in Shenzhen, with offices in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Tokyo and Kobe, DJI is the world’s most popular drone maker by revenue. The company is set to complete $1 billion in sales in by the end of 2015, double the amount in 2014 (in which it sold 400,000 units) and accounting for 70% of the global consumer drone market. DJI was valued at $8 billion at its Series B fund raising of $75 million in May 2015. Sequoia is an early backer of DJI, investing an approximate $30 million in DJI in 2014 followed by Accel this year with $75 million.
At the helm is CEO and founder Frank Wang Tao, who founded the company in his Hong Kong dorm room in 2006 and retains ownership of about 45% of the company—thanks to successful bootstrapping.
DJI is considered at the forefront of the civilian-drone industry with a range of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) products for industrial, professional and amateur use. Notably, the company helped bring small, powerful drones to the masses with its Phantoms: a series of ‘quadcopters’ that are easy to fly and video shoot in HD. These bots are widely used by professional photographers and filmmakers. DJI drones have also been used for nature protection, farming, and search and rescue.
- Spacious (Hong Kong)
Founded in August 2013 by former Goldman Sachs exec Asif Ghafoor, Hong Kong-based Spacious is an online marketplace connecting buyers and tenants with properties throughout Asia. After raising an initial $500,000 in 2014, in June of this year Spacious closed a $3 million round from a range of backers including Nest VC partner Billal Naveed and Ticketflap.com CEO and angel investor Martin Haigh.
Spacious uses a map-like interface with a range of data including price estimates, local schools and neighborhood demographics. These details are offered to help house hunters make informed decisions without placing their entire trust in an agent. Through a verified agent program, the service differentiates and rewards agents who are providing a positive experience.
Spacious brings in revenue from referrals to serviced apartments as well as from partnerships with services such as Uber and Boxful. Revenue is increasing 20-30 percent each month, with total traffic rising 40 percent month-on-month.
- Spottly (Hong Kong, Beijing)
Backed by $850,00 from 500 Startups, Gobi Ventures, Cherubic Ventures and Mindworks, Spottly was founded in October 2013 by Edwyn Chan. Spottly can be described as a “Tumblr + Pinterest for travel/locations to create and share notes about traveling.” Chan was previously a lead product manager for NBA.com/China, and was the former head of Product at Favspot.
With offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, Spottly boasts insider networks from 15 key cities curating the best places to eat, shop, stay and play. The app has been featured as a “Best New App” in 15 countries and is one of the first Asian travel apps to be made available on the Apple Watch. As of June 2015, Spottly Insiders had created more than 80,000 travel posts of places in 3700 cities and 125 countries. The startup is planning to roll out to other countries in Asia in 2016.
- Xberts (Shenzhen, Beijing, Sunnyvale)
Xberts is a community-based “Alibaba + LinkedIn” for IoT run out of Beijing and Shenzhen. It provides a one-stop solution for smart hardware makers to quickly connect with reliable suppliers, manufactures, distributors and IoT experts globally. The company closed a RMB 5 million RMB (US$ 790,000) angel round from Plug & Play and AV Capital in July 2015. To date, more than 3,200 IoT solutions providers and distributors, and 250 hardware brands, have listed on Xberts.com.
The Xberts founding team includes alum from UC Berkeley, Oxford, Michigan University and Tsinghua with experience from Qualcomm, Google, Cisco, IBM and Amazon. Its serial entrepreneur founder Simon Huang previously co-founded a C2B e-commerce platform early on in China to provide customized clothing products to consumers. Xberts, which launched an innovative IoT Expert ThinkTank, is experiencing 35% month-over-month growth.
- Zhubaijia (Shenzhen, Beijing)
Zhubaijia, a Shenzhen-based short-term vacation rental platform similar to AirBNB or Homeaway, focuses on Chinese tourists traveling overseas. The startup raised a $78 million Series C in September from HNA, following a $31 million Series B from GoldStone Investment, AB Capital and Youlian Capital.
Notably, AB Capital, which is backed by Chinese movie star Angelababy, typically focuses on female lifestyle startups; however, when the actress and her husband went overseas to take wedding photos this year, they themselves sought rooms on Zhubaijia, bringing attention to the startup.
Founded in 2012, Zhubaijia targets high income family travelers who are looking for more unique travel packages. In addition to room listings, the platform offers a customized option that allows users to fill in simple facts and have the company respond back with an personalized vacation plan. The site includes rental homes in 60 overseas travel destinations such as Australia, Thailand and Singapore. In contrast to AirBNB, the service’s main revenue comes from value-added services such as local restaurants and souvenir deliveries.
Founder Ken Zhang, based in Hong Kong, is a former business consultant and analyst with Greenwoods Asset Management and Citic group.
Credentials for the Silicon Dragon Founder Awards include:
- An innovative product or service in a tech or related area
- A dynamic, passionate CEO/founder with some international company experience and/or education at a top university
- A high-caliber management team with fully staffed positions for CTO, CFO, business development, sales and marketing
- Raised at least one round of venture capital from a prominent firm or angel investor
- Reported fast growth for at least one year
- A market leader with a sizeable market share
- Profitable or on a quick path to profitability
- A highly qualified group of investors and advisors
- English-language fluency
- A surprise factor such as a major milestone or accomplishment