Ask any woman about bras and you’ll probably hear complaints, whether it be about the fit, comfort, material, or whatever it is.
Then there’s also the issue of some dresses and tops that simply don’t look good with a bra strap peeking out here and there, which can leave women scratching their heads about what to wear underneath.
Many turn to various alternatives to solve their problems, one of which are adhesive silicone pasties, also known as nipple covers.
One such brand offering these bra alternatives is NIUD, a local company founded in 2021. With a couple of viral videos to its name (with one getting upwards of 10 million views), NIUD has become a recognisable nipple cover brand in Malaysia and beyond.
Peeling off the cover, here’s the story behind this silicone pasties brand.
Before launching the brand, the women behind NIUD were already long-time users of silicone pasties. However, they were struggling to find quality and affordable options in the market.
They were tired of the poor adhesive that only lasts a few uses, thick silicone that couldn’t be more obvious under tight clothing, and the risk of the covers falling due to sweat or water.
“We decided that if we can’t find something we like in the market, why not make our own?” founder Carmen Liu shared.
Working in strategy consulting at the time, Carmen decided to launch NIUD in 2021. She attributes her confidence in starting a company to her supportive entrepreneurial friends.
From the initial idea validation to product development as well as defining the branding and marketing strategy, Carmen was able to bounce ideas off these friends, who would help “sense-check” her ideas.
Nowadays, she’s juggling NIUD with her full-time role at an e-commerce aggregator in APAC.
Covering the bases
While NIUD is a Malaysian brand, the products are manufactured in China by carefully selected partners.
Carmen shared that she was keen to work with local manufacturers, but found that for certain components, foreign manufacturers could be more competitive in terms of product innovation and costs. This helps NIUD bring quality products to consumers at a more affordable price.
So, how do these covers compare to the typical ones you can find online? Carmen believes a few factors sets NIUD apart.
First, there’s the product design. Carmen said NIUD’s nipple covers are ultra-thin with seamless edges, allowing them to be barely noticeable under tight clothing.
“This is a huge relief for those who want to pair their nipple covers with tighter clothing but are worried about the telltale signs of nipple cover,” Carmen said.
The second thing that sets NIUD apart is its product colour range that’s closer to skin tones. Carmen describes it as a “wide” range, which encompasses three colours—cream, caramel, and cocoa.
Carmen picked out those specifically tailored shades after testing samples with friends to find tones that are “suitable to the Malaysian skin tones, from light to melatonin-friendly shades”.
While three might not sound like a lot, Carmen reported that the majority of customer feedback she has received seem to be happy with the range so far.
To withstand Southeast Asian humidity and heat, NIUD covers are also designed to be waterproof and sweatproof.
Other than that, NIUD’s covers are reusable, making them more eco-friendly compared to single-use nipple covers.
“With proper care and storage, it could last anywhere up to three months,” Carmen said.
But proper care and storage can be tricky, especially because of the adhesive material found on nipple pads that might end up attracting lint and dust.
To address that, NIUD’s covers come with a rather reliable packaging. With a magnetic component and two holders that help the covers maintain their curvature, these travel-friendly and durable boxes can help keep the covers clean.
These factors as well as the packaging might justify the RM69 price point for some. Given the fact that the covers are supposed to last up to around three months, the team believes that translates into a reasonable cost per use.
It’s important to note that NIUD isn’t the first to offer these kinds of inclusive, seamless nipple pasties, too, especially overseas. Just look at Singaporean brand Barebodies with four inclusive shades, though it doesn’t ship to Malaysia.
Getting the good kind of virality
Going viral on social media can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Just take a look at the viral content posted on NIUD. A quick scroll through the comments show users (many of which look to be boys or men) using expletives to express confusion or disdain over the product.
Still, overall, Carmen says that the brand has been lucky and has fostered a supportive community.
Take a look at the comments on NIUD’s best-performing TikTok video for instance. The video starts with another person’s video, where they share that they had dropped their own nipple cover in a mall.
As a response, NIUD jumped in saying how the original poster should’ve used their product instead. As a result, many viewers complimenting the video for its smart way of leveraging the original video.
“Some of our social media posts that went viral did spark curiosity among non-users, though everyone has been pretty civil and accepting of trying new things,” Carmen said.
However, the algorithm doesn’t always agree, with platforms like TikTok occasionally flagging NIUD’s content as inappropriate.
“It can be frustrating at times especially when the content is pretty tame,” Carmen expressed. “We’ve found some workarounds, e.g. censoring sensitive words that might get us flagged.”
Other than that detail, though, the viral content has been doing well for NIUD. On top of helping with brand awareness, the videos have even converted global viewers into customers of the Malaysian brand.
A right market fit
One big challenge that Carmen is facing is scaling and growing NIUD.
“I had to rethink some of our existing processes,” she shared. “Some of which includes optimisation of warehousing and fulfilment, as well as platform scalability.”
To overcome these issues, the 27-year-old migrated NIUD to a new platform and outsourced its fulfilment process.
Since Carmen brought up the issue of scalability, I wondered if the niche nature of NIUD’s products would serve as a limiting factor.
On top of the product catering to just women, nipple pads in general also aren’t suitable for every woman of every size or preference.
However, Carmen believes that having a niche enhances the brand’s potential rather than limiting it.
“We could launch products that are tailored to the niche, create content with non-generic messaging that’s relevant to our community, and grow our brand with our small community together,” she said.
While sometimes this curated content finds its way to unrelated audiences, particularly with the Reels and TikToks the brand is creating, the global viewership is something that NIUD is looking to capitalise on.
The team had previously given international orders a shot, but due to expensive last-mile delivery fees and logistics issues such as lost parcels and a long delivery time, they stopped taking such orders.
But with the continued interest from international audiences, NIUD is looking into catering the products to global consumers down the road.
Featured Image Credit: NIUD
Whenever I want to get a restaurant recommendation or read a review about a spot, I usually turn to Google. Good, old, trustable Google with its millions of search hits in just a couple of seconds.
At this point, I don’t think I’m open to changing my tendencies. But this Malaysian app aims to challenge that habit in me and countless other locals.
Called MyComments, this app is essentially like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Users can essentially write comments for restaurants, lifestyle spots, and more.
Taking inspiration from abroad
Having lived in Shanghai for ten years, Lim had witnessed the rise of dianping.com, which had gone from a review site offering group buying to one of the biggest on-demand delivery platforms today.
Self-described as a true fan of the site, Lim was determined to bring the concept home to Malaysia. He believed that many Malaysians might know of dianping, but it didn’t actually have a foothold here in terms of usage.
He kicked off the idea in 2013 using his own funds with a few other partners on his side. One of them was Anson Leong, who essentially worked for free back then.
When asked about why Anson decided to work with Lim on the project pro-bono, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“The first thing is, I trust him,” Anson said. “This is very important to me.”
Anson knew him from a previous job and believed in Lim’s attitude and abilities.
“We started very early, but it was a part-time project,” Lim explained. “We always wanted to make it a full-time one, but our resources were very limited. But we didn’t give up.”
Last year, the team finally raised their first round of investments from friends and family. MyComments now has two full-time employees, including Anson.
So, back to the question of what MyComments offers that sets it apart from other review apps.
“The differentiation is on local content, fitting into social-cultural expectations of Malaysians,” Lim elaborated.
One obvious way is catering to the Muslim demographic in Malaysia. Other than a halal tab on the main page, Muslim users can also be prompted to use the Muslim-friendly settings upon opening the app.
According to the team, the app also has translation features by Google, so users can click on the option and the translation will appear based on the user language phone setting. This is useful for a multilingual nation like Malaysia.
Another feature is curation. MyComments’ team describes the platform as a “digital magazine”, particularly due to the Top 10 list and the video content they produce.
The Top 10 list basically houses native content and listicles such as “Top 10 Nasi Lemak in Greater KL Recommended by Netizens”, “Top 10 Free Entrance Hotspots in Ipoh”, and more.
“Google is ‘search’, MyComments is ‘browse’,” the team simplified.
As a smaller, local platform, MyComments is also able to connect to its users more and respond to feedback more efficiently.
Solving merchants’ pain points
MyComments’ current business model relies on merchants signing up for its digital advertising system.
With a base price of RM12.50 per day, merchants can essentially boost their stores to wider audiences as they are given priority in search results with the help of location-based services.
These paying merchants also get access to the Business Console where they can write their own shop descriptions, upload official videos and photos, and publish their Business WhatsApp links for bookings and orders.
Merchants can also publish ongoing promotions or coupons on their pages to drive up interest. According to Lim, MyComments does not earn any commissions off redemptions of these coupons.
Believing that ads on sites like Google and Facebook are more expensive nowadays, MyComments thinks its packages are more valuable. This may be true, but the result all comes down to MyComments’ reach.
An issue hindering this, though, is that MyComments lacks credibility. Not many know about it, despite the fact that it’s been around for a while.
“The thing I’m quite worried [about] is that people don’t know who we are,” Anson said. “Are we a scam? Are we trustable? This is the problem.”
To gain Malaysians’ trust, the team aims to up their media exposure and transparency.
My comments on MyComments
To be honest, I still had some doubts left even after hearing the team speak about the app. While the app is somewhat active, it’s definitely a lot less populated compared to popular, well-established sites.
Yet, I do see the charm of the app. While there are some kinks with the languages to sort out, the UI and UX of the app are clean and approachable.
The app feels very much like a comfortable, wholesome platform for Malaysians to share little titbits of information with each other.
Still, I wondered whether there’s an appetite for this. Especially in this age of social media, where anyone can just look up an influential food or travel account to find trending places to visit.
This is exacerbated by the fact that an concept like this isn’t unique.
Other than the aforementioned apps such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, there’s also KLOOK, a popular option available in Malaysia.
It lets users look up travel and F&B destinations on top of other activities and even book these packages directly on its sites. Given, it’s not primarily a review site, but customers can leave reviews and ratings too.
Still, this industry is likely big enough for multiple players. MyComments has its work cut out, though, as it won’t be easy trying to grow visibility and awareness in the shadow of more established giants.
But there’s no doubt that the team behind MyComments is passionate. And they’re optimistic. That’s what kept them going from 2013 until now.
And perhaps that optimistic outlook and perseverance are well worth-it; MyComments is finally kicking off its merchant model, having signed its first merchant recently. According to Anson, there are 10 to 20 more merchants who have verbally agreed to join in on the app.
This optimism extends to MyComments’ future. Talking to the team, it seems like they’re interested in creating some kind of all-in-one lifestyle app that makes peoples’ lives more convenient. Once again, this idea isn’t anything new, but we’re interested to see how MyComments might put their own tweak to it.
In short, MyComments aims to be an app created by Malaysians for Malaysians. It’s a space for locals to exchange recommendations and reviews.
Of course, its longevity will come down to whether the team is able to continue marketing it in a way that’s relevant to our ever-changing content consumption habits.
Featured Image Credit: Anson Lim, Director at MyComments
While SEA was once known as an ideal region for tourists, the startup ecosystem has seen a significant uptick in recent years.
This may be accredited to growing talent pools, government contributions, as well as an influx of capital from regional partners.
Many also attribute the rapid tech adoption to the pandemic, with lockdowns emphasising the need for ecommerce, fintech, and logistics. These industries will still remain the engines of growth into the near future.
With the dust settling from the economic disruption that is COVID-19, will the attention of booming sectors shift in the eyes of investors and venture capitalists (VCs)?
Three industry experts came to speak on the matter during a panel at Wild Digital Southeast Asia 2022.
Mohan Belani, co-founder and CEO e27, was the moderator speaking to VCs Carmen Yuen, General Partner of Vertex Ventures SEA & India (Vertex), and Jeffrey Paine, co-founder and Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures (GGV).
1. Ongoing funding despite unstable economic conditions
Some are of the perspective that VCs are cutting fewer cheques and taking things slow due to the current unstable economic conditions. Carmen challenged this perspective, sharing that Vertex is always investing in companies to grow them for an exit strategy, then the cycle repeats.
She stated that the world is progressing forward, and innovation will continue to happen, whether in good times or bad.
In fact, Vertex is in the midst of fundraising for its fifth fund, which the team intends to deploy around Q1 next year.
Jeffrey had a similar view on the matter, adding that while they tend to be picky, funding never stops. After all, new ventures are important to every country, especially emerging ones.
2. VC eyes on are on these high growth sectors in the startup industry
Elaborating on her earlier point, Carmen specified that while innovations are happening, there are two kinds of pools.
She expanded, “Are we innovating things that are incremental, or are we looking at things that take a lot of time, but will fix a big problem?”
The latter which fixes a larger, deeper issue thus requires a significant amount of time to develop before it’s ready for the market.
With that, Mohan asked the VCs about their perspectives on which sectors have high growth potential over the next five years, ones that Vertex and GGV would be keen to fund.
Carmen answered first, pointing out that Vertex looks at five main areas, including B2B (business-to-business), SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), fintech, healthtech, and sustainability. She elaborated that the sustainability sector may include solutions that address climate change (climate tech).
For GGV, interesting sectors Jeffrey named included fintech, agritech, and climate tech, which classifies as part of the deeptech sector that’s rarer to find.
Did you know: Deep technology (deeptech) or hard tech is a classification of a startup company, with the expressed objective of providing technology solutions based on substantial scientific or engineering challenges.
3. Banking on deep tech and climate tech for the future
With sustainability and climate change being a topic more companies and individuals are taking seriously, both Carmen and Jeffrey are looking to fund such startups with relevant solutions.
Under the umbrella term of climate tech, some areas include solutions looking into carbon input or output, electrification, storage, and more.
As for deeptech, some examples may include launching rockets or satellites into space, and R&D in lithium batteries.
Deeptech startups tend to come up with solutions for the B2B or B2G (business-to-government) market, such as one of GGV’s portfolio companies, SpeQtral, which deals with quantum communication systems for governments.
Did you know: Quantum communication takes advantage of the laws of quantum physics to protect data. These laws allow particles—typically photons of light for transmitting data along optical cables—to take on a state of superposition, which means they can represent multiple combinations of 1 and 0 simultaneously.
Carmen chimed in, sharing that Vertex does have one deeptech company in its portfolio that deals with autonomous vehicles.
These innovations fit into Carmen’s earlier classification of solutions that take a lot of time to develop before it’s ready for the market, but will fix bigger, deeper problems in the end.
Deeptech startups will require plenty of capital and early-stage funding to pad the operational expenses of companies.
Jeffrey pointed out that when it comes to seeking an investor for such startups, founders need to look for ones who are willing to grow the company with them, ones that understand deeptech as an industry too.
“When you raise, you need to find investors who know how to go through these cycles to fund you all the way,” he said.
4. When it comes to what startups are attractive to VCs, to copy, or not to copy?
Because Silicon Valley is viewed as the gold standard for startups, Carmen and Jeffrey were asked whether or not SEA companies should attempt copying existing business models. Would doing so be relevant in the first place?
Jeffrey pointed out that it can be risky to do so. For SEA startups who plan to copy a solution from Silicon Valley, they need to build their company’s presence in multiple SEA countries from the get-go.
“’Cause by the time you build the solution in Malaysia then only plan to expand, then it’ll be too late because Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore would’ve already come up with their own versions to the solutions,” Jeffrey warned.
“If you copy lock, stock, barrel, you’ll fall flat.” Carmen chimed in. “China became what it is today because they started what was in the [Silicon] Valley, and they’ve improved on it and localised it and now it’s become a powerhouse.”
With a more optimistic perspective, Carmen shared that copying can be beneficial, and addressed that SEA startups have been doing a pretty good job at it. These entrepreneurs have been able to internalise existing solutions and make them applicable to the local context.
“We’ve also got SEA companies that developed global solutions from the onset, so we have quite a few unicorns that have come up with innovations to build globally,” Carmen praised.
5. If you want strong markets to execute exit strategies, look here
There are startups that want to continuously grow and become unicorns, and there are those with an exit strategy to generate investment returns for their investors and shareholders.
Some common ways for companies to do so include listing on the stock market, or via mergers. Other than the US stock exchanges, Mohan asked Carmen and Jeffrey to name some strong markets in SEA as well.
Carmen named the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) and Indonesia Stock Exchange (IGX) as promising contenders. She added that amidst the economic situation thus far, The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has also been pretty stable despite other public markets going on a slide.
Jeffrey seconded that, agreeing that these are the three most advanced markets in SEA.
When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, startups can either look into being acquired by larger corporations, or merge with other startups.
Carmen believes that most startups would opt for such exit strategies as she’s seen most of Vertex’s portfolio companies do so via trade or secondary sales.
The past few years have seen monumental shifts in technology and rapid growth for many startups — crypto companies have drawn massive amounts of attention to themselves, while ride-hailing giants like Grab and Gojek have gone public with IPOs.
Yet, what goes up must come down, and with the crypto winter, Russo-Ukrainian War, and deteriorating China-US relations, the optimism that global capital has shown for investment seems to be on the decline.
Many have wondered if this denotes a change in the investment landscape — one where investors and founders must shed the widely-held optimism of the past few years, and replace it with something else.
At the 11th annual Tech in Asia conference held today (September 21), Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, gave her take on the investment landscape, and offered advice on how startups should navigate upcoming challenges.
The world is changing, and startups must change with it
Answering the question of whether or not the world is currently at an inflection point, Lee very much agrees with it. In fact, she suggests that we may soon see a new world order, as economic winds change and companies scramble to deal with these new changes.
For companies to adapt to these changes, Lee advises that the same methods that have worked before may or may not work again, especially in terms of fundraising for startups.
When I first got into the VC business in 2001, it was a different time. We were all facing a different set of issues and challenges, with our heads down, and working on the businesses that we were building. Today, we are facing challenges that are even more complex.
– Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital
For Lee, this means that companies are going to have to face more challenges when it comes to building their businesses. Interest rates are on the rise, and this means that VC firms like GGV Capital are tightening their belts when it comes to lending money and investing in startups.
This is something that will impact startups in many sectors — not only is funding drying up, but consumers are also more hesitant to spend money. Therefore, companies may face an uphill battle when it comes to actually monetising their business.
As such, monetisation is an important aspect that startups now cannot ignore. Previously, the startup scene has been characterised by a ‘growth at all costs’ mentality, but now, investors are looking for startups that can grow sustainably and profitably.
Cash is once again king
So why are VC firms and partners like Lee so keen on monetisation?
Well, for one, the ability for a company to monetise itself is an indicator of its success. According to Lee, valuation for companies is now becoming less important. While previously, growth and valuation were closely correlated, now, the key correlation seems to be valuation and cash flow with growth.
As such, cash flow, and consequently, the ability for a business to monetise itself, is now becoming something that investors are keenly paying attention to.
For Lee, the reason for this is simple. In a world where funding is becoming more difficult to secure, companies that hope to do well must be able to do so without said funding. As such, “it’s never too early to monetise”, according to Lee.
While companies may continue to worry about their product market fit, Lee suggests that part of this is also about finding the right product monetisation fit — experimenting with what works and what does not when it comes to monetising a startup or business.
Businesses should figure out where their monetisation will eventually come from. When the opportunity cost for cash is high, companies that have cash to burn will be able to move from a defensive position to an offensive position.
– Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital
As part of this, Lee suggests that it is advisable for companies to have significant cash reserves, regardless if it comes from funding through investments, or product monetisation.
“Valuation is never the most important. What’s important now is for companies to be able to run without new funding for a period of three years,” stressed Lee.
Talent competition is tough, and it’s a double-edged sword
While companies compete for funding and market share, the competition for top talent remains unabated. For Lee, the up-and-coming story for talent competition is going to be China and Chinese talents.
There is a tendency for investors to follow talent, and top talents have decided to make their home international. These entrepreneurs are mobile, and when they move to Southeast Asia, they will bring capital with them. But these are also very strong entrepreneurs, who have fought in brutal markets. When they come to Southeast Asia, they are going to compete with our own startups.
– Jenny Lee, Managing Partner at GGV Capital
At the same time, she also pointed out that “it’s not just about how many top talents you can hire, but also who you can keep.”
Lee says that Southeast Asian startups have to be able to compete with these startups and entrepreneurs, and with the changes that the world is seeing, she believes there is hope.
In particular, she pointed to food tech and clean energy transition as key areas where Singapore could turn up as a hotspot for interesting business models.
Key to this is the ability of startups to expand, not just within Singapore, but also beyond Singapore. According to Lee, “capital will always find the best markets, the best entrepreneurs, and the best business models. But to get noticed, startups also have to be big enough to compete on the global market.”
As the investment landscape evolves, it seems that VC firms like GGV Capital do believe that to some extent, the time of easy money and growth at all costs is over. Instead, the path to profitability is now taking centrestage.
Entrepreneurs would do well to take note of the shifting sands and adapt accordingly. After all, if the marketplace is a battlefield, one will not succeed by fighting the last war. It must constantly learn and adapt to new situations in order to come out on top.
Featured Image Credit: Screenshot of TIA Conference 2022
Amazin Graze, the Malaysian healthy snack brand, has announced through a partnership its support for Orange Esports, the local Malaysian Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) team, and Esports Business Network (EBN), a leading esports marketing group in Southeast Asia.
While this can be seen as an unlikely collaboration, the partnership aims to reframe the stereotype that gaming is an unhealthy hobby due to the unhealthy snacking habits of gamers.
The collab will see Amazin’ Graze making its products like granola and nut mixes more accessible to the gaming community via numerous platforms provided by EBN.
It comes in a timely manner as team Orange Esports prepares for their next game at Mobile Legends Professional League Malaysia (MPL MY Season 10) held in Quill City Mall.
Delving into healthy and accessible snacks
Started seven years ago in a home kitchen in KL, Amazin’ Graze was born out of frustration due to the lack of healthy, yet affordable food options in Malaysia.
To date, the brand produces at least seven categories of healthy products that cater to a wider audience range.
They consist of granola and muesli, nut and trail mixes, nut butter, instant oatmeal, healthy chips, protein blend, and other healthy essentials.
The brand now has a wide local presence both online and offline, with its products available in pharmacies, grocery stores, and mini marts.
Get to know the esports team and café
Orang Esports is one of Malaysia’s largest esports café operators (Orange Esports Cafe) with 32 outlets around the country. When the MCO completely shut down their usual operations, they began a gaming equipment rental for customers to enjoy at home.
Meanwhile, the Orange Esports MLBB team comprises six individuals. They’ve been on a winning streak with an unbeaten record in their respective group at the MPL MY Season 10.
In 2019, Esports Business Network was established as a result of the merger between Orange Esports Cafe and The Gaming Company, a SEA award-winning full-service esports marketing agency.
Armed with 18 years of experience in the esports industry, EBN is focused on uniting the world of esports and gaming with brands globally through its end-to-end ecosystem. EBN positions itself as the forefront strategist in esports marketing and ventures across SEA.
Healthy snacks and esports, an unlikely combo that makes sense
Extending beyond the team, Amazin’ Graze snacks will be available to all gamers who play at Orange Esports Cafes on a complimentary basis.
To add, Amazin’ Graze will also lend its support at Orange Esports’ booth at The Corporate League (TCL) Season 3.
A seasonal amateur league that bridges corporate worlds and esports, TCL offers opportunities for corporations to battle each other via competitive esports.
Carrying an RM40,000 prize pool this year, TCL will run on a six-week league format across four major game titles across both PC and mobile. This includes Dota 2, Valorant, MLBB, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile (PUBG Mobile).
This unlikely partnership bridging the worlds of healthy snacks and esports is one that could open up other doors of opportunity in the future.
From this, it seems like Amazin’ Graze is making moves to grow its market segment beyond the shelves of popular pharmacies and grocery stores, and in a way, this foray into the esports scene makes a lot of sense.
- Read other gaming-related stories here.
Featured Image Credit: Orange Esports / Amazin’ Graze
As part of the opening address at Tech in Asia’s 11th annual conference held today (September 21), Dr. Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State Ministry of Communications & Information, talked about why tech talent and innovation matters for Singapore’s digital economy.
He first noted that rapid changes that are currently happening at the back of a pandemic, including deepening geopolitical tensions, new economic disruptions and shifting work trends.
Focusing on the theme of ‘built to last’, Dr. Janil questioned what it really takes for Singapore to remain relevant in an ever-changing climate, and went on to cite some fundamental building blocks for adaptability that will be vital for us to thrive in the digital future.
“It starts with a secure, resilient digital infrastructure that connects seamlessly and has interoperability as a fundamental expectation. This is a significant role for the state to make sure that this happens,” stressed Dr. Janil.
He also pointed out that the government has to ensure that Singapore’s business rules are “pro business” — that we lay the foundations for a vibrant digital economy interdependent within, and across, our borders.
However, none of this is going to happen unless Singapore has a highly-skilled workforce, equipped with industry-relevant skillsets for jobs of the future, as well as competitive enterprises that can innovate and seize new opportunities being incentivised to do so, rather than lock in the status quo.
With these factors in consideration, Singapore will become not only resilient and adaptive to the change happening around us, but potentially also be the drivers of change with a lasting impact.
Continued investment in digital infrastructure
“In Singapore, we will continue to invest early in digital infrastructure, ensuring that our people and our companies are well-positioned to benefit early — from whichever disruptive change, digitalisation, and the use of technology to transform our lives and economy,” shared Dr. Janil.
For one, it has invested early in 5G networks. In fact, local telcos are on track to achieve a nationwide coverage by 2025 through standalone networks, not just piggybacked on the existing legacy infrastructure.
The government and its partners have been working to develop use-cases across many sectors that take advantage of 5G’s high speeds and low latencies, creating new opportunities as a result of that early investment in the infrastructure.
Similarly, Singapore will continue to invest in its broadband infrastructure, and it intends to deliver 10 times faster the current access speeds.
“The latest technology is helpful in sprinting ahead of competition, [but] it is of no relevance if it is not trusted. As we invest in our digital infrastructure to grow that digital economy, we have to ensure that the infrastructure is secure and resilient,” he said.
“Instead of viewing security and resilience as costs, we … encourage people to think of them as enablers of the digital economy. A more secure and digital infrastructure that is resilient will enable us to engage with each other — with competitors, collaborators, partners — with greater confidence and trust. And this greater security and resilience will enable us to move faster and go further.”
He went on to cite examples of how increasing numbers of businesses are taking advantage of cloud platforms. The value proposition from cost, technical agility and commoditisation is clear, but the cybersecurity of the cloud is increasingly becoming more important.
“We have tried to provide clarity on the levels of security by different cloud service providers by rolling out the multi-tier cloud security standard from government to give businesses a framework for assurance that their data and systems that are hosted on the cloud are adequately protected, within a framework that is easily explainable and interoperate with other sets of governance frameworks.”
Meeting the demand for tech talents
There’s indeed a lot that Singapore can do in terms of infrastructure and build systems that shore up trust and resilience.
While we make use of innovative technology, Singapore must also continually invest in its people.
“As the digital economy in Singapore has grown, so has the demand for tech talents. Digitalisation has created many exciting job opportunities for fresh graduates and mid-career workers,” said Dr Janil.
“We need to continue to provide opportunities for training and learning to groom the next wave of talent to make sure that there are people capable of seizing the opportunities that we create, and powering the companies that will take advantage of these opportunities.”
As such, the government has been working with industry partners to train Singaporeans to take on emerging roles in technology.
One of its flagship schemes is called the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA), which was designed to meet industries’ immediate needs. Since 2016, it has placed and trained more than 12,000 individuals directly into “good tech jobs”, and trained another 160,000 who are already in jobs with the next wave of tech skills.
It also curates programmes for many groups, from different backgrounds and different educational qualifications.
In fact, a new TeSA scheme has been launched for ITE (Institute of Technical Education) and polytechnic graduates. This new programme brings companies together with training providers, ITEs and polytechnics, through internships, apprenticeships and work-study programmes.
Over the next three years, ITE and polytechnic students and graduates will benefit from more than 1,000 job openings created by the companies on this partnership alliance.
“We hope and welcome more firms to join us in this effort to grow our local tech talent pipeline, curating these opportunities for students — helping them develop their skills and understanding the market right at the start of their career and plugging them into the best opportunities,” said Dr. Janil.
While he acknowledges that they will “move around” and seek opportunities within the tech space, giving them this boost at the start will help Singapore build up its tech talent pipeline over the medium term.
Local companies have a part to play in driving tech innovation
Dr. Janil pointed out that local enterprises are critical in driving the innovation in Singapore. As such, the government will continue to support local tech companies to grow not just within Singapore, but also beyond.
One example is Pulsifi, a Singapore-based HR tech firm that was founded in 2016. It is a people data platform that accurately predicts candidates’ job performance and work potential fit with work style values, helping to reduce up to 70 per cent of man hours required for talent acquisition and data management.
Pulsifi has benefited from one of the government’s enterprise development grants and has gone on to win numerous awards. Most recently, it managed to secure a global contract with Nestlé Group.
Besides grants, the government also provides support in accelerating the growth of promising Singapore-based tech companies through programmes such as IMDA Accreditation@SG, in which companies are essentially accredited as a solution provider.
One example is Hubble, which tapped on accreditation networks to become one of the solution providers for the local construction sector. It managed to raise S$11 million in January 2022 during their Series B funding, and has since expanded their headcount in Singapore.
“We encourage young startups with innovative solutions to use these approaches that we have — funding, accreditation programmes — to find your first reference customer, and we welcome developed tech SMEs to further their business ventures through these programmes.”
A vibrant tech ecosystem is key for these ideas to find their way out into this world. This is where another IMDA programme called SPARK, which supports Singapore-based startups, comes into the picture.
It connects growing companies with community partners — including global consulting firms, law firms, integrated communications firms, product design firms and tech giants Meta and Google — providing expertise to grow our talent and tech ecosystem to support community use cases.
Concluding his speech, Dr. Janil emphasised three fundamentals that Singapore is focusing on for its digital economy — investing in digital infrastructure, especially in emerging and new technologies; investing in people, especially in developing the local talent pipeline; and investing in its ability to grow and develop a vibrant tech community through partnership programmes.
“These efforts will lay the foundation for Singapore to become a leading and tech and innovation hub. The aspects of our work will last are the communities that we build, the talented people that we bring along on the journey, and the partnerships that we create — these will lead to future excellence and innovation,” he summed up.
Featured Image Credit: Screenshot of TIA Conference 2022
Being a Macbook Air user for seven years now, it’s safe to say that PC gaming is something I can live without. Even on mobile, it’s rare that I’d play open-world games, and would often resort to lighter arcade or idle ones like Candy Crush and Cats and Soup.
My colleague, Sade, is on the other end of the spectrum. She bought a gaming laptop for the sole purpose of playing Genshin Impact.
Recently, she tested the 18GB+512GB REDMAGIC 7S Pro, and was impressed with the stark differences between a gaming phone’s performance compared to your regular flagship one, especially when it comes to handling a high-performance game like Genshin Impact.
Built for battle
The REDMAGIC 7S Pro has an aviation aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass 5. Being a gaming phone, it needs to accommodate quick reactions for battle, and more, while keeping the device from overheating.
Hence, the phone has a 960Hz touch sampling rate with a 20,000 RPM built-in turbofan.
Using the phone’s 65W fast charger that comes in the box, its battery can go from 0 to 100% in just about one hour.
With a three-camera setup on its rear, it’s equipped with a 64MP main, 8MP ultrawide, and 16MP under-display front camera.
We recently brought the 7S Pro out on a 2D1N trip to i-City’s theme park in Shah Alam. Here, we tested its camera performance to find out if the phone is more than just a gaming device.
At WaterWorld’s waterslides, we found that the REDMAGIC 7S Pro’s main camera has a shutter speed quick enough to take a clear shot despite the fast movements of our subjects.
Colours captured in the photo are vibrant, with good enough contrast to provide a clear picture.
Next, we went over to Snowalk to test the phone’s portrait mode where you can adjust the aperture settings to tweak the blurriness of the photo’s background. These shots came out decent, though the artificial software blurring can get a bit much.
The House Of Horror was the next stop to check out how the cameras performed in low-lighting situations. These shots were average, with enough details captured for you to make out what you’re seeing in the photo.
We gave the phone another shot at taking low-light photos at night, at the theme park’s City of Digital Lights.
Turning on night mode, it is evident that the phone’s image processing software can preserve more details in photos.
Tinkering around with Pro mode a little more, one can exercise more creativity with their shots when playing with shutter speeds, as we did.
With a still subject and decent lighting, the REDMAGIC 7S Pro takes photos that come out looking good by most standards.
This makes great news for those looking to make the gaming phone their daily driver, as its high-performing nature ensures it easily lasts an entire day whether for work or play.
To fully see the REDMAGIC 7S Pro in action, check out the video below:
StoreHub announced today that it has raised US$13.5 million (RM60.7 million) in its pre-Series B round. The investment was led by venture capital firm 500 Global, along with participation from existing investors Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India, OSK Ventures, and others.
This round comes after its Series A+ Round in 2020 when it had raised US$8.9 million. This pre-Series B round brings their total funding to US$28.5 million.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Wai Hong Fong, co-founder and chieftain of StoreHub, said that the new funding round will help the company drive further investment into technological innovation while deepening the value and quality of StoreHub’s services.
To empower merchants sustainably
According to Wai Hong, the fresh funds will be used to continue scaling the number of stores that use StoreHub, but “in a sustainable and healthy way”.
“Positive unit economics has always been a key feature of our scaling engine and we want to continue to grow in this manner,” the co-founder explained.
As mentioned, the company will also be investing in technology innovation to meet the challenges of retailers and restaurants in this post-pandemic landscape.
“We’ve seen how painful the market and operational changes are that businesses need to work through, and we want to ensure that we can empower and support them in an even bigger way,” he explained.
The press release also states that the team is taking “revenge travel” and “revenge dining”into consideration, believing these post-pandemic tendencies will continue to drive consumer behavior in Malaysia and across the region.
With this in mind, Wai Hong in the press release said retail and F&B business owners are looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and maximise their revenue per customer. These are things he believes StoreHub’s platform can help achieve.
Amidst the pandemic, however, StoreHub has continued to grow. In the last 12 months, StoreHub stated that it has processed over 128 million transactions worth over RM7.2 billion in gross transaction volume, showing a 40% increase from the previous year.
Matching this increased demand, StoreHub has been expanding its team, bringing in over 100 new hires in the last six months.
To Wai Hong, this growth in the volume of transactions is a natural result of the team’s consistent growth in empowering its merchants.
“Our team has also evolved constantly to build improved processes and scalable systems to ensure that our merchants have a smooth experience with the product and our service,” he said.
According to a press release, 500 Global’s managing partner, Khailee Ng, shared that StoreHub’s round is one of the first of many “really big bets” the firm is taking in its top-performing companies.
Khailee further explained to Vulcan Post that this was because StoreHub is “Southeast Asia’s only multi-country player, with the most paying customers, and the most VC backing”, putting them in a great position to build a regional giant.
Khailee also said that StoreHub is creating a playbook for the rest of the world. To him, signing up and retaining thousands of paying customers in the Philippines and Thailand is different from doing so in the US.
“More emerging markets will benefit from the lessons StoreHub has learned, which also paves the way for StoreHub’s future market entries,” he said.
A prelude for future plans
According to StoreHub, that it has reached close to net profitability a few times over the years, with the latest being in December 2021.
“Every time we’ve raised a round, we would build a financial plan that aims to reach net profitability within an 18 to 24-month timeframe,” Wai Hong shared.
But StoreHub typically ends up raising a new round before reaching the end of those cycles due to investor confidence and the company’s hunger to keep growing.
“We will continue to adopt a similar approach with this round,” Wai Hong said.
According to the chieftain, this pre-Series B round is a prelude to its Series B round that they already have planned.
Before then, Wai Hong said that we can expect to see greater depth in how the company enables merchants to operate more efficiently and sophisticatedly.
Given the exponential growth in the size of cheques StoreHub has been given, this Malaysian startup is something we’ll be continuing to keep our eyes on.
Featured Image Credit: StoreHub