VR wins at Create@Alibaba

Virtual reality for real-estate agents, a market place for trucking companies, a mobile coupon system for shopping malls, a QR code virus scanner – the competing startups at the Alibaba Cloud Startup Contest showed us what you can build with Alibaba Cloud today.

On 20 July 2016, Alibaba Cloud held the Hong Kong finals for the Create@Alibaba Cloud Startup Contest (CACSC). The event was held out in the Hong Kong Science Park (HKSTP) at Tolo Harbour. The Hong Kong CACSC event was one in a series of events, mainly held in China, but also in cities such as Paris and London, where startups have been competing for a place at the grand final in Hangzhou.

The Alibaba Cloud

Aliyun, or Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing division of Alibaba Group, has become a big player in China in regards to providing cloud computing services. Like Amazon’s Amazon Web Services, launched around 2006, the Alibaba Cloud, launched around 2009, is today proving a wide range of cloud computing services inside and outside of China.

Alibaba Cloud’s first data centre in Hong Kong was opened in 2014 and the second one was opened in November 2015. At time of writing this post the services available included: “Elastic Compute Service, Relational Database Service, Object Storage Service, Server Load Balancer” etc.

Competing for a place in Hangzhou

There were 10 companies competing at the Hong Kong event, all with the goal of winning 50,000 USD of Alibaba Cloud Credits, as well as the chance to be part of the finals in October 2016 in Hangzhou, where the Hong Kong winner will compete with companies from China, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The event was led by Gallen Leung from HKSTP and he was supported by a panel of judges consisting of:

  • Ms. Cindy Chow – Executive Director of HK Entrepreneurs Fund
  • Mr. Leo Liu – Business Development Director at Greater China of Alibaba Cloud International
  • Mr. Roland Yau – Managing Partner of CoCoon Ignite Ventures
  • Mr. Peter Mok – Head of Incubation Programme of Hong Kong Science Park

“Tech” – an international language

There were 10 very interesting companies that presented their different concepts at the event. Some of the companies had products and services that were already in use, others were more at the conceptual stage.

What they all had in common was that they were all built on the Alibaba Cloud platform. The second thing that 9 out of 10 of the companies had in common was that they all presented their “six-minute competition pitches” in Mandarin.

To make their competition pitches in Mandarin made good sense since, according to the “37th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China” from China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), the number of people connected to the internet in China surpassed 688 million at the end of 2015 – this is over 50% of the population. Of these 688 million users, 90.1% use their mobile phones to access the internet. As we write this post (in July 2016), even more people in China would have gained access to the internet.

At the same time, tech presentations in Mandarin can be tricky, but I found that so much of the “tech language” is common (English) nowadays that their pitches came across loud and clear – and there was no lack of energy and enthusiasm.

Three companies to look out for

Even though there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm among all the companies, there could only be one winner. In the end, it was PowerMew Technology who made the winning pitch.

PowerMew’s presentation was conducted by Mr. Karl Li, Marketing Manager for PowerMew, and he showed us how you can use virtual reality (VR) to browse through all the apartments in their portfolio. Using VR to look at apartments and properties in general is definitely makes the process faster, saving you lots of time.

Another interesting company was 36Link. 36Link’s goal is to “match the supply and the demand in the trucking industry in Hong Kong through a single online platform” In short “a market place for heavier transports in Hong Kong” that also includes GPS monitoring, geo-fencing, rating of services etc.

A third company was Letsguang who has built an app for shopping malls in China where customers can earn reward points that can be exchanged for gifts. At the same time, the app provides the shopping malls with an accurate view of the foot traffic in the malls etc., which enables the malls to personalize marketing to each user.

As mentioned earlier, each company had 6 minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges and all of them captivated the audience in one way or another, either based on their technology or level of innovation, or though their level of enthusiasm. So all in all, we witnessed ten companies to look out for going forward.

/Jens and Gushi

At the pen for Ripple Effect Consultancy

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Update: This blog was written on the 21st of July. Since then 36Link has gone on to win a place at Google’s “Young Entrepreneurs Program for 2016”. We wish Felix Wong and his team at 36Link the best of luck!