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A Life Less Analog Technology

Impact Hackathon: Why the geeks shall inherit the earth

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The COVID-19 pandemic is the asteroid that will finally make the dinosaurs extinct. And by dinosaurs I mean individuals and companies who still refuse to embrace digital. I truly believe this. Which is why I’m happy that Impact Hub Manila (IHM) is bringing back Impact Hackathon to create genuine change in society. This year’s Impact Hackathon will be held virtually on Aug. 17-21. It aims to reboot the economy through inclusive digital innovations in five verticals. These include climate change, education, food and agriculture, health and wellness, and smart cities.

Only those who are still in denial think that things will “go back to normal”. The COVID-19 pandemic is the end of the world as we know it. It is a turning point in human history that has accelerated digital transformation. So don’t listen to the dinosaurs. Don’t listen to the defenders of the status quo who want to go back to doing the same things. Instead of using this disruption as an opportunity to build a better post-pandemic world. Not just the new normal, but a better normal.

“I am very optimistic and I truly believe that technology is the great enabler. It has completely democratized a lot of things that we’re doing,” IHM Founder and CEO Ces Rondario said in response to a question from Digital Life Asia in the press briefing.

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A Life Less Analog Technology

Edusuite platform keeps schools running amid pandemic

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As I’ve previously mentioned in this column, education is very dear to my heart. That’s why I was happy to learn that Philippine startup Edusuite aims to help improve the educational system here with its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered school management system for
K-12 to college. This allows schools to focus less on administration and more on education.

Now, I’m a techno-optimist and a big believer in AI. I love Edusuite’s vision of having AI co-manage the school together with human administrators. Otherwise, as Edusuite Co-founder and President Niel Dagondon pointed out at the press briefing on July 29, you are using software but still just manually administering the school. But how challenging is it to get school officials to adopt this mindset and allow AI to co-manage?

“I have to admit that it’s not going to be a fast process. Sometimes we launch Edusuite with a school and it takes them sometimes as much as two years to enable all the features that Edusuite has. And what we did is to make it in a way that we can turn off the AI-specific features one by one. So if a school does not trust the system to do the AI at the start, they’ll be able to do the planning their way. For example, if they don’t want the student advising module to automatically advise the student, they can just turn it off and have someone on the backend manually approve each time a student would take a certain number of subjects. So it’s not going to be automatic, that as soon as they implement Edusuite, all the AI features are turned on,” Dagondon said.

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StartmeupHK Festival showcases innovation mindset

The HKFIA 2020 Forum at StartmeupHK Festival tackled how entrepreneurs should adapt to the changing world in the next decade.
The HKFIA 2020 Forum at StartmeupHK Festival tackled how entrepreneurs should adapt to the changing world in the next decade.

Hong Kong’s annual StartmeupHK Festival became a virtual event for the first time this year. Organized by Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK), StartmeupHK Festival is the startup showpiece of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

On the final day of the Festival, at the HKFIA 2020 Forum organized by Sina Finance, Paul Chan, Financial Secretary, the Hong Kong SAR Government, spoke about Hong Kong’s resilience while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that despite its many challenges, Hong Kong is still faring very well and again led the world last year in funds raised through initial public offerings.

“I have no doubt that we’ll be in the running again this year, despite the turbulence out there. After all, Hong Kong has become a much sought-after place for secondary listing of Chinese companies. Just ask video game developer NetEase and e-commerce retailer JD.com, both of which listed in Hong Kong last month, following in the welcome wake of tech giant Alibaba’s secondary listing here last November,” Chan said in a press statement.

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Social robots: Will they make technology more human?

Imagine social robots that can see and perceive us as humans.

Imagine social robots that can see and perceive us as humans. That will not only detect our faces, but also understand what our facial expressions mean. That will remember us and instantly recognize us when they see us again.

Well, we don’t have to imagine, because social robots already exist. In fact, on June 16, I was in a webinar with a social robot. As you may know, I love robots. This robot was in my favorite city, Stockholm, which I’ve fortunately visited four times. To be fair, its human colleagues at the Swedish startup Furhat Robotics were the ones conducting the webinar. Namely, Furhat Robotics Co-founder and Senior R&D Engineer Jonas Beskow and Product Owner Nils Hagberg.

Beskow and Hagberg demonstrated in real-time the impressive visual perception of the Furhat robot. To interact socially with humans, a robot needs more than facial recognition. They gave an in-depth presentation on the algorithms that power the robot. This is how computer vision gives the Furhat robot situational awareness and social intelligence. It readily recognizes a human face and quickly understands what his or her facial expression means, and how to respond accordingly.

Will social robots help people become less afraid of robots and AI, and do you see social robots becoming an integral part of human society, I asked Beskow and Hagberg after the presentation.

“Personally, yes, I definitely do. This is why it’s very important how we design our social robots and how we design interactions with robots. I think this is the core of what Furhat Robotics is doing. That we’re trying to make these interactions as friendly and engaging and we’re trying to bring all the positive qualities of human interaction into this mix,” Beskow told Digital Life Asia.

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Disrupt VC model, says Draper Startup House exec

We need to reexamine the current VC model, according to Giulianna Crivello, Head of Ventures, International, at Draper Startup House.
We need to reexamine the current VC model and mix things up, according to Giulianna Crivello, Head of Ventures, International, at Draper Startup House.

Why should geography limit venture capital? In the current VC model, where most platforms are local or regional, startups find it difficult to raise capital from an investor outside their borders.

This is precisely why Singapore-based Draper Startup House has launched its own funding platformDraper Startup House Ventures. And why it is committed to disrupting the current VC model in order to match startups and investors from all across the globe.

“That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to mix things up. And at the same time, a lot of our partners indicated that they were interested in investing across borders. But they didn’t have the clarity. They didn’t have the oversight. And didn’t have the expertise. So along those lines if we can help connect entrepreneurs with the capital, then I think that would be a pretty cool thing to do,” said Giulianna Crivello, Head of Ventures, International, at Draper Startup House.

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Funding platform launched by Draper Startup House

Draper Startup House Founder, International Vikram Bharati wants their funding platform to bring together startups and investors from all over the world.
Draper Startup House Founder, International Vikram Bharati wants their funding platform to bring together startups and investors from all over the world.

“Why can’t a startup from Indonesia raise capital from an investor in Estonia?” Vikram Bharati, Founder, International of Singapore-based Draper Startup House, aims to change this situation with the launch of their funding platform, Draper Startup House Ventures.

“Most platforms are local or regional. In our globalized world, geographic boundaries are starting to get blurred. Companies and investors are starting to go beyond their borders, searching for opportunities anywhere in the world. There are not many platforms that can help startups and investors find opportunities globally. We see an opportunity to place ourselves as a platform that can extend beyond the reach of one’s geography,” Bharati told Digital Life Asia.

Draper Startup House Ventures aims to help entrepreneurs receive better access to funding. This new funding platform provides an opportunity to submit pitch decks to the Draper Venture Network, which has 23 global funds. Moreover, it allows startups to raise capital beyond geographical borders through the funding platform’s worldwide network.

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Business survival: Accept new normal for at least a year

Business survival tips from Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca: adapt to the situation, stay relevant, and weather the storm.
Angkas Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca’s business survival tips? Adapt to the situation, stay relevant, and weather the storm.

One day, the enhanced community quarantine will end. It is wrong, however, to think consumer confidence will return immediately. In fact, business survival means asking yourself if your company can adapt to the present conditions for at least a year.

“A lot of people don’t realize that it’s really not a matter of whether the President lifts the lockdown,” said George Royeca, Chief Transport Advocate of Angkas. “It’s a matter of when we find a cure. The only way to beat this virus is when you find a vaccine or a cure. In the meantime, what do we do to co-exist with COVID?”

According to Royeca, the key to business survival is accepting this reality.

“Even with the ECQ being lifted, it’s not going to be back to normal. Consumer confidence is shot. It’s going to take a while for that to ramp up. Give it a year or two in your business horizon. At least a year, to see how your business will survive. So looking at it from a three-month perspective is very dangerous. It could be damaging to the decisions that you make on how to move your business forward,” he said.

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Telehealth seen to decongest PH healthcare system

MEDIFI CEO and Co-founder Jay Fajardo says telehealth will democratize access to doctors.
MEDIFI CEO and Co-founder Jay Fajardo says telehealth will democratize access to doctors.

With people forced to stay home, many Filipinos are now relying on online consultations with doctors. Because of this, the COVID-19 pandemic might prove to be the tipping point for the Philippines to embrace telehealth.

“For non-urgent medical needs, telehealth offers a real way to decongest the country’s healthcare system and provides huge convenience to the patient. It has also become a welcome economic benefit for our doctors who have found a new venue to continue their practice,” MEDIFI CEO and Co-founder Jay Fajardo told Digital Life Asia.

MEDIFI is one of the tech startups helping Filipinos cope with the enhanced community quarantine. It is a telehealth platform that allows people to consult with a licensed doctor online for non-emergency health concerns. The site has two components. MEDIFI for Patients lets people consult remotely, while MEDIFI for Doctors allows doctors to take their practice online. MEDIFI for Patients is also available as an app that can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

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Startup heroes wanted: ‘The Final Pitch’ vs COVID-19

The Final Pitch’ creator and host John Aguilar is optimistic that startup heroes will rise to the occasion.

In the sixth season of “The Final Pitch“, the Philippines’ first business reality TV show, you can be startup heroes. Forever and ever.

“The Final Pitch: Heroes Edition” calls for startups to pitch and investors to back COVID-19 response solutions. The goal is to fund efforts dedicated to frontliners and different communities in need. The show will bring together entrepreneurs, startups, and innovators who can present solutions to help the Philippines bounce back. To ensure the safety of cast and crew, the live pitching will observe protocols and social distancing, utilizing technology to limit direct interaction.

“We will take the lead from various agencies who are currently coming up with the protocols for businesses in general, and for the media/entertainment industries in particular. But we are being proactive in trying to imagine a new way of doing things where we will combine in-person and virtual filming for this particular series. We’ve never done this before and it will be exciting to see how we’ll be able to create a TV show that is also a live online broadcast,” John Aguilar, the serial entrepreneur creator and host of “The Final Pitch”, told Digital Life Asia.

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Regtech startup UNAWA aims to empower SMEs

Mona Dimalanta, CEO of regtech startup UNAWA, said they want to help SMEs and startups overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mona Dimalanta, CEO of regtech startup UNAWA, said they want to help SMEs and startups overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been described as a “ticking time bomb” in the Philippines. To help them cope with business uncertainties amid the pandemic, regulatory technology (regtech) startup UNAWA is hosting a free webinar. This webinar on April 17 will provide insights from legal experts and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Around 99.6% of businesses in the country are SMEs, employing 66% of the workforce. On March 16, the government placed Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Originally set to last until April 12, the ECQ has been extended until April 30. Moreover, even if the ECQ finally ends, the effects of the pandemic could last much longer. SME owners will have to make hard decisions to keep their companies afloat.

“We have seen the importance of a community helping each other out in times of crises. UNAWA is dedicated to helping its fellow startups and SMEs emerge from the pandemic successfully. This free webinar is part of our efforts to create a community of entrepreneurs that support each other and remind each other that they are not alone in facing these problems,” UNAWA CEO Mona Dimalanta said in a press statement.