First up, a confession: since I graduated and started working, I haven’t actually bothered to find out much about insurance coverage — apart from confirming with my parents that the plan they bought me is still in effect. It’s unbecoming of a responsible adult, I know, but there’s just so much to sift through when it comes to insurance that it’s hard to even want to get started.
Even if you have friends or family who are in the business, the idea of dedicating hundreds of dollars to something you might (hopefully) never have to use can be a scary prospect. Taking out an insurance plan is like getting into a long term relationship, after all — one that you really can’t afford to screw up.
And that is exactly what this website wants to make sure of.[caption id="attachment_429051" align="aligncenter" width="1272"] Coverbrite’s homepage[/caption]
What is Coverbrite?
Coverbrite is an online portal that lists insurance agents from various insurance companies. Agents can sign up to have their profiles displayed on the site, which includes details like the insurers they work under and their licence number. The latter, in particular, is a nice touch which should help assure first-time buyers that they’re not getting ripped off.
Those looking to get insured, on the other hand, can narrow down their search for an agent according to factors like insurer, years of experience of an agent and even languages spoken. This last one is a great feature to have, given that so much of the process of buying an insurance package involves communicating with your agent. The list of languages even include dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien, which should be a plus when trying to get older folks on board.[caption id="attachment_429581" align="aligncenter" width="255"] Search for agents who can explain insurance policies to you in your preferred language.[/caption]
If you’re completely new to the wide, wide world of insurance, Coverbrite also has a section on its website that offers buying tips — a series of FAQs that range from almost mundane ones like “Is the cheapest policy necessarily the best?” to more thoughtful ones such as “What makes a good representative?”. It doesn’t answer every question you might have about insurance, but then again, that should be the job of your agent rather than Coverbrite itself.
Perks Of An Online Portal
I do like the idea of having an online portal for insurance agents. This might be a side-effect of growing up in the digital age: it’s always reassuring when I get to suss out details of someone I’m going to meet before actually seeing them in person — especially when it’s a person I’m going to entrust a lot of my savings to.
The fact that Coverbrite is a third-party portal — and not a platform that’s affiliated to any one insurer — adds to its appeal. This removes the hard sell aspect and obligations that come with the usual chats about financial planning. Coverbrite even encourages buyers to shop around, which is something that we might find hard to do when meeting agents through word-of-mouth or via insurers directly.[caption id="attachment_426031" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image Credit: hyhoi.com[/caption]
It also encourages agents to step up their game — trying to pull a fast one on prospective clients won’t do them any good, when buyers can simply turn to other agents on the platform for a second opinion. This makes it easier for clients to focus on the matter at hand (which is getting an insurance plan) rather than thinking about how to make a quick exit from an unsavoury meeting with an agent.
That said, Coverbrite does come with its limitations as well. I do wish more of the agents listed on the platform would do a better job of spiffing up their profiles, or at least put up a picture of themselves. When it comes to big-ticket items like insurance, any factor that contributes to the trust department should be something to take into account — and a decent profile page is one.[caption id="attachment_429071" align="aligncenter" width="1004"] Chester: 1, Agents with no profile pictures: 0.[/caption]
I was also hoping that Coverbrite would have more agent listings. The portal currently has only 73 agents on board, with a majority coming from one major player in the insurance space in Singapore. If they can get more agents to join them, it will give buyers more options, and lend the site more credibility as “the largest listing of qualified agents”.
I hired a few movers to help me relocate to my new house. We negotiated the price over the phone, we came to a common agreement and they showed up to pick up my stuff.
As soon as they got all of my stuff into the truck, they were adamant that we renegotiate the price. They kept arguing about how they expected me to pay them more because they had to travel to my house on a sunny day. Long story short, it was a horrible experience. It ended with them taking the stuff over to my new place, throwing them out of the truck and then driving away with the money while they flipped me the bird.
To avoid others from having a similar experience, Just Lorry intends to be the middleman that handles all of the negotiations between customers and logistics service providers.
Just Lorry is a new startup that’s trying to help you stress less by easing the process and by reducing the time it usually takes for you to book a lorry. They provide a platform which customers can use to provide information pertaining to where they are currently located and where they’d like to move out to. Based on that information they can then select the type of lorry that they need to get the job done.
They claim, “Most customers have no idea about which type of lorry suits their needs. Therefore, we guide our customers to choose the appropriate type of lorry by showing them the exact dimensions and the estimation of items to be fitted in each type of truck.”
If that doesn’t suffice, they also insist that customers send them images or videos of their items and the team at Just Lorry will assist them with free consultation.
While this concept is not entirely new in the Malaysian market—in fact, Vulcan Post has reviewed another startup called TheLorry.com and they are still gaining traction in the logistics industry by focusing on these key principles.
As a customer, I need to know what I’m paying for and I need to have a clear understanding of all the terms and conditions before the movers show up to my place. And that’s something that Just Lorry is putting into practice through their platform.
When you choose a particular truck, their system will provide you with enough information to show you exactly where your money is going.
“It helps users to better understand the operation costs and be confident with our prices,” they said.
They will break down the amount of money that you have to pay into categories like fuel & toll, maintenance, labor, partner and the amount of money that Just Lorry gets from the cut.[caption id="attachment_365391" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Just Lorry[/caption]
They also mentioned that the lorry drivers won’t be assisting in helping you move your things; however, if you need help, you can book and pay for additional manpower right from the platform.
Along with transparency, Just Lorry also conducts background checks on each of their partners to ensure that you don’t experience any discomfort when you’re dealing with the movers.
They start off with a phone interview with a potential partner and once they have an understanding of the services and the type of trucks that they offer, they then arrange a visit to their premises and also verify the company’s registration with the local authority.[caption id="attachment_365401" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Just Lorry[/caption]
Just Lorry takes on the burden of conducting background checks to ensure that both the proper legal standards and service standards are followed.
From time to time, they will also review each partner based on feedback provided by the customer. So you can be assured that if you encounter any issues with your mover, Just Lorry will take proper corrective measures to correct the issue.
Given that Just Lorry is much newer than TheLorry.com, they need to make sure they build alliances to gain traction. Just Lorry is focusing on building partnerships by meeting their every need and by helping them connect to a larger base of customers.
“Our promise to our partners is to bring them more sales and work together as a team. We believe its very important to us a startup,” they said.
Apart from partnering with logistic service providers, they are also currently negotiating with insurance companies to insure the basic amount of every job.
In fact, they have partnered with over 50 different entities since they began 3 months ago and they’ve managed to serve over 70 customers across Malaysia.
Given that TheLorry.com set the precedent for such platforms in Malaysia, it only makes sense that we compare both servics. For starters, TheLorry.com offers more services than Just Lorry. They offer standard, express and disposal services. They mostly cater to businesses as opposed to Just Lorry.
On the other hand, I feel Just Lorry primarily caters to domestic customers who have comparatively a different set of needs. Given that they primarily target domestic requests, they’d have to provide a more personalised experience to their users. They also need to be able to advise the customers on key issues and intervene in cases of misunderstanding, especially when customers request something completely different from what they requested before.
Just Lorry address these issues by communicating with the customer throughout the journey and they even provide free consultation to help the customer decide the appropriate truck that’s required for the job.
In terms of the UI/UX of both platforms, I’d have to say that Just Lorry offers a much simpler approach of making a booking by not providing countless number of options like TheLorry.com—such options would be more suitable for businesses rather than individuals.
When the need for a lorry arises, I recommend that you check the quotations provided by both the platforms and then make an informed decision based on your needs, budget and requirements as both service, although similar, prioritise different consumer groups.
There are a lot of things that we can do together thanks to the Internet and social media. We get to share our preference of music, culture, tastes, dating habits and lately our toilet habits—thanks to a new app called Pooductive.
The Internet has also opened doors for us to collaborate not just in terms of work but also creative projects, be it in the industry of music or any other art form. And now, we also get to collaborate together and create a novel, thanks to Eqlee (pronounced as ek-lee).
Eqlee is Malaysia’s first crowd sourced novel, while that description might bring up an idea of a bunch of authors working together in teams on novels or books of their choice—it’s honestly much more than that.[caption id="attachment_359601" align="aligncenter" width="644"] Image Credit: The Star[/caption]
Eqlee is a democratic platform that lets the public make every decision in terms of the novel. They get to decide the chapters, the length and the story line of the novel. They get to collaborate on absolutely every decision pertaining to the novel.
It’s good to note that Eqlee is not a platform that authors use to work on their projects, it’s a platform that allows everyone (and anyone) to collaborate in writing only one novel.
Yes, it’s only one novel!
So, how exactly does it work?
Eqlee sets deadlines for each chapter during which absolutely anyone can submit their version of the chapter. Once, the submission period is over, the public gets to read these potential chapters and they will assign a value to them on a scale of 1-5 stars. This voting process will also be done within a timeframe and once the voting is over, the chapter with the highest value is selected as an official chapter of the novel.
After the selection, the public has time to read the winning chapter once again and after the reading period comes to an end, Eqlee opens up another submission period to allow for writers to write the next chapter.[caption id="attachment_359611" align="aligncenter" width="958"] Image Credit: Eqlee[/caption]
If you’ve been interested in writing all along but you were unable to find the right channels to express your creativity, then this could be the platform you could experiment with.
Literature Meet Innovation
This all came to be after the founder, Victor Lozada and Tony Borda were inspired by their love for literature in fact Victor is an amateur Spanish novelist. Victor was born in Peru and having completed his bachelor’s degree in Political Economy and Psychology at Georgetown University in Washington D.C, he moved to Mexico where he launched his first startup. He later moved to Spain to complete his MBA and he also launched another online startup there.
On the other hand, Tony Borda is from Colombia and he describes himself as one that’s in love with both art and code.
The founders are avid readers themselves and they say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mario Vargas Llosa and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, among others are also their favourite authors.[caption id="attachment_359591" align="aligncenter" width="593"] Image Credit: The Star[/caption]
Both founders were also inspired by concept of the shared economy and how companies like Uber and AirBnb utilised the concept to resolve social issues.
Given the slow rate of reform in the literary world, Victor and Tony wanted to take a risk and experiment by implementing the concept of the shared economy to create creative works of literature.
They don’t just want to create a novel but they want to create a world, similar to that of Star Wars. They told Vulcan Post, “Imagine Star Wars, the story now belongs to the public in a way that allows them to create events, social groups, content and so forth.”
Armed with the concept in mind, they wanted to create a platform that would completely democratise the creative process of producing a novel, so they came up with Eqlee.
The name Eqlee is a combination of eqteber, which means to write in Arabic and leer, which means to read in Spanish.
“Eqlee should be a story from the public, by the public and to the public, and everybody should be free to play with it, expanding the world as they see fit,” they added.
While they do have big dreams for Eqlee, they only work on it during their spare time and it doesn’t affect their “regular” lives.
Could There Be More?
Given that the initial response towards the platform has been somewhat positive it does show that this platform has potential. Eqlee’s team said, “We constantly receive messages expressing the public’s appreciation for our platform.” Along with this, Eqlee has also been able to generate buzz on both social and traditional media due to its novelty.[caption id="attachment_359622" align="aligncenter" width="702"] Image Credit: Eqlee[/caption]
But that raises a question: can it be more than just a crowd-sourced novel? Maybe it could be eventually become a platform that could enable writers to collaborate with each other. Maybe it could also become a platform where established writers mentor up and coming authors? Maybe it could be a platform where honest discussions about literature could be held—the potential for the platform is endless.
That’s something that the founders seem to agree with but they don’t want to complicate things and confuse the general public. They said, “There are a lot of ideas for Eqlee, but for now, yes, it’s a crowd-sourced novel. As much as we would like to explore those ideas, it’s a very early stage to commit and perhaps confuse everybody with the objective. We will continue to focus on the novel, in that way we will see what the public wants, what they need.”
While democracy as an idea and as a form of governance, may be both entertaining and appealing, it’s still plagued with plenty of frailties, and it doesn’t take a genius to spot them.
Firstly, when was the last time a democratic body did anything with speed?
Hardly ever, because we all have to wait for everyone else to get on board with the “right” thing to do and that takes forever. And that’s a problem that I foresee for Eqlee.
Let’s say about 50 people submit their version of chapter 1 on Eqlee. Firstly, how many submissions do we expect a person to read? Maybe about 5—and then a person is going to place their vote based on those 5—what about the remaining 45?
What about people that have more followers on Facebook or Twitter? Won’t they get their followers to vote for their chapter over others? Possibly.
But Eqlee is trying to do it’s best to not allow that from happening, all the potential chapters will be shown during the voting period without any names, so that chapters written by popular people won’t get any special attention.[caption id="attachment_359621" align="aligncenter" width="953"] Image Credit: Eqlee[/caption]
However, even if we address the issue of popular authors getting more attention from the public, we still have to address the issue of time. The founders do agree that the novel doesn’t have a potential ending right now and it could become a never-ending story. They affirm, “We will not influence the story or its length.”
As an impatient netizen that worries me. Can Eqlee generate enough interest around it at all times to hold people’s attention?
I have a hunch that people will eventually grow impatient and disappointed—especially if their version of the chapter doesn’t get accepted—and they will eventually leave.
Sure Eqlee will reduce the submission period after each chapter to somehow speed up the process but that takes time.
Plus if a writer is extremely anal or protective about his/her writing (in other words, a control freak), I don’t know how they’d feel about sharing a novel with x other number of writers. What if the ending or plot they had in mind doesn’t turn out the way they hoped for?
In this era of Internet and instant self-gratification, do we really have any time to spare or skills to share? Well, as a proponent of democracy, I say we wait and see what the majority decides.
So you’ve booked that flight to your long awaited getaway, and are hyping yourself up for the well-earned break that’s coming up in about a month’s time. There’s just one problem: you haven’t exactly gotten your itinerary in place yet. You do what everyone does these days, and turn to the Internet. A few clicks on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet will fix that, right?
As soon as you get to the homepage of these sites, you know you’ll need at least a few hours to sift through the mass of reviews — some credible, some dodgy — that have been left behind by previous travellers. And this is exactly what the founders of Wedilo, a Singapore startup, want to solve.[caption id="attachment_341602" align="aligncenter" width="722"] Part of the Wedilo team (Image Credit: Wedilo)[/caption]
Co-founders Philippe Limes and Mixime Cornelli have quite the extraordinary background when it comes to travelling/living abroad. Philippe himself is half French, half Venezuelan, while Maxime is half French and half Italian; both are now based here in Singapore. Between them, they’ve called at least six different countries and four continents home — talk about a globetrotting lifestyle.
Having experienced both the good and less savoury consequences of online review systems, the two founders decided that we need a review system that would benefit not just industry players, but tourists themselves.
After speaking extensively to others, they managed to narrow down two main issues faced by travellers: a mismatch between reviews and actual locations, and the sheer amount of time required to research and plan for a trip. Armed with this information, Philippe and Maxime launched their app Wedilo in April 2014, and more recently, Nothing To Hide (NTH).[caption id="attachment_341621" align="aligncenter" width="702"] Image Credit: Wedilo[/caption]
Went There, Did That, Loved It
Yup, that’s how Wedilo got its handle — by putting together the first two alphabets of each of the above phrases. It’s not the most elegant name, admittedly, but that’s a discussion best saved for another time.
This is how Wedilo works: upon launching the app, users will get to choose which city you want to explore. You can then select from categories like Eat, Drinks and Stay to browse the available listings in more detail.[caption id="attachment_341661" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Image Credit: Wedilo[/caption]
The best part of Wedilo, though, has to be the Find Friends feature. For most of us, the recommendations we trust are most likely to come from close friends and family, rather than complete strangers on the Internet — who might or might not have been paid to write reviews of attractions and accommodation. So it only makes sense to gather the reviews of our friends in one place, so we don’t have to do the actual groundwork and ask each of them in person.[caption id="attachment_341651" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Image Credit: Wedilo[/caption]
Nothing to Hide
To expand further on Wedilo’s features, the team have since created a complementary app that focuses specifically on hotel reviews. Nothing To Hide (NTH) essentially ties up with hotels to get reviews from guests in exchange for free WiFi.
One concern I had with NTH — which I raised with Philippe — was that guests would likely be annoyed at having to do a review, and respond with poorly-thought out answers just to get it out of the way. (I know I would: after a long day, all I want to do is sprawl on a hotel bed and surf the net; hotels that have made it hard for me to do this have not fared well in the reviews department.)[caption id="attachment_341631" align="aligncenter" width="702"] Image Credit: Wedilo[/caption]
Yet, I was assured that only 5% of reviewers during a beta test provided slipshod responses, while a small scale test run found that an impressive 95% offered “text rich, detailed perspectives that were as good, if not better than reviews on sites like Tripadvisor.”
While I do have my reservations about this figure — the team might find it hard to maintain the same level of response once they launch publicly next month — Wedilo are banking on the fact that a large number of respondents will “neutralise unreliable reviews”. They also have plans to reward frequent reviewers with discounted stays and travel related gifts to encourage participation.
I’ll be the first to admit that reliable online review systems are something that we could all do with. With Singaporeans named as one of the most well-travelled in the APAC region, it’s only a matter of time before our need for trustworthy review platforms outrun the websites that are currently available to us.
Despite my concerns about the quality of reviews that NTH, in particular, might get once it launches officially, both Wedilo and NTH seem to be on their way to great things: they’ve already gotten in touch with 150 hotels which are keen on working with their platform, and intend to expand to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in the near future.
Also Read: How To Score The Perfect Plane Seat
Human expression and creativity has no bounds—and it shouldn’t be limited by time, space and dimension either—it should be brought to life! Startups, businesses and entrepreneurs spend huge amounts of money to produce content that’s eye-catching but they often fail to make their content interactive.
And in today’s world, there are so many things vying for our attention. If we walk down a street that’s filled with posters and banners of different startups, products and companies, how would we behave? Would we pause and take a look at each and every poster?
No, we wouldn’t. We honestly don’t have the time to. But what if the content on the posters could come to life? What if they told us a story? What if they told us so much more?
Bringing content to life to provide a more immersive experience could be the next big thing—and it’s one that augmented reality startup PlayMe AR is hard at work at.[caption id="attachment_334461" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
“Augmented Reality to us is the next step of digital medium such as how Internet is after the TV, and smartphone is after the Internet. We believe that it is beneficial to the commerce industry in selected areas where there is a sound marketing concept behind them.”
“Augmented Reality is not to be used to only wow clients but also to provide sound information for users. 3D layout for property developers, hologram spokesperson for a product/education are some of the examples,” the team said.
Bringing Content To Life
PlayMe AR is a simple DIY augmented reality creator platform that places in your hands the tools to translate the experience of augmented reality onto print. For example, when you position your smart device with the PlayMe App over a poster or paper, you would instantly be able to view additional content (video, sound, etc.) that you would otherwise not be able to see.[caption id="attachment_334482" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
Think QR codes on steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
With the PlayMe AR platform, you can create cool and interactive content through their PlayMe AR Creator and your customers can access that content through the app.
“A user can easily upload their AR Design (Tracker) which sets as the foundation of tracking point. Next the user can easily upload their desired digital content (product image, AR Video, AR hologram video, Web buttons, custom images). The last step is to adjust the positions of the assets then publish them into the PlayMe AR server, ”the team explained step by step.[embed]https://youtu.be/DSuS3VHQm2E[/embed]
With the platform, you can help your audience connect online easily and engage with your content, they can even share their experience on social media platforms and so much more.
Not Disruption—Rather, Enhancement
PlayMe AR is the brainchild of 3 co-founders—Iz Phang, Winson Tan, and Alvin Ooi—who came up with the idea back in October 2013 and they officially began production in February 2014.
While disruptive startups aim to disrupt the market that they are operating in, PlayMe AR is only here to support the offline channels of advertising content and take them to the next level.
“Playme is not to replace the offline channels but is a tool to enhance the offline channels to be digital equipped. Think of it as a plugin that allows the offline channels to be able to track the time of engagement, numbers of scans, frequency of engagement and demography of the users. Augmented Reality is used to enhance the print material when it was previously not possible to link digital content on top of the print material,” the team affirmed.[caption id="attachment_334491" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
The co-founders, with 2 full-time developers, 3 part-time developers, and a graphic designer, took about 3-5 months for the prototype of the PlayMe AR App and about 8-10 months for the PlayMe AR Creator prototype.
With A Big Vision, Comes Many Problems To Solve
However, many of their early clients didn’t know how to implement the technology and the team had to showcase a lot of case studies to illustrate the possibilities of the platform.
“Many wanted their own white-labeled application,” the team added. White-label products are products produced by a company that other companies (marketers) rebrand to make it appear as if they made it.
Since then, the team has been working on designing piles of samples and demo videos that showcase the use of the AR app. They have also gone a step further and created a new business model that provides their clients with a white label app that runs on the Playme Ar Creator backend engine.[caption id="attachment_334492" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
“We are also in the midst of making a customisable logo and splashscreen for those who want a white label application powered by Playme AR,” the team added.
The team said, “The basic problem with all AR applications is that they all run on their standalone servers that are not interconnected like the Internet or how QR codes are based on a set of standard protocols. These are some of the reasons that stops people from having an AR enabled function into their own camera.”
The fundamental problem here is that you need to have the PlayMe App installed on your smart device if you want to experience the AR that’s created through the PlayMe platform. Expecting all of your audience to have the app installed on their phones just so they can engage with a flier is definitely a pipe dream.
To combat the issue, the team is working with the local tourism sector and brands, and they are also allowing individuals to use the PlayMe AR Creator at a lower cost, with the hope of creating great content first that will eventually be used to draw users towards the application.
Bringing The Future To Life
[caption id="attachment_334511" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
With regards to the future the team said, “Malaysia is a 15-20 million strong smartphone population and we believe PlayMe AR will grow along these line to have a strong user base in Malaysia. We are planning some tourism projects, and also some private projects that we’re still unable to disclose.”
“We work closely with publications and will roll out more white label apps to ensure business growth but also to focus on the smaller users to use PlayMe AR app as an alternative option or a more affordable plan.”
“We are currently raising our seed funding to facilitate scaling and of course the opportunities presented in Malaysia is abundant that allows us to test and tweak PlayMe for the better opportunities,” they added.
While bringing printed content to life and making it more interactive is definitely a noble aim—an aim that has its fair share of challenges—it’s still way too early for it to have a major impact in Malaysia.[caption id="attachment_333591" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: PlayMe[/caption]
PlayMe AR has to continue to figure out strategies and tactics to get both content developers and users onto their platform. While prioritising one consumer group over the other may make sense early on, the truth of the matter is that content developers will only consider the platform as a viable option if the platform has a sufficient user base. Likewise users will only download the app if it’s a necessity.
So, I can see myself downloading the app if I’m attending a conference and if it’s a must but I wouldn’t be downloading it out of “free will”. At least not just yet.
That being said, I did download the app to scan the hologram and video on PlayMe AR’s website but I didn’t see anything happen—I probably am doing it wrong.
Despite the challenges and the state of the industry in Malaysia, it does leave me with a sense of optimism given that the team is passionately developing their platform to accommodate different consumer and business needs.
UPDATE: PAIR Taxi will launch officially on November 5, Thursday, and will be available in the evening from the taxi stands at International Plaza and Capitol Tower in the Tanjong Pagar area.
Getting a cab might no longer be a problem for some of us, thanks to a slew of taxi booking apps such as GrabTaxi, ComfortDelGro’s taxi booking app, as well as Uber. But clean energy startup Aspiring Citizens CleanTech is not confident that this problem has been fully addressed. They’ve decided that taxi booking apps might not be that effective in helping commuters flag down taxis, especially those who work in the Central Business District area — long queues are not an uncommon sight at CBD taxi stands during peak hour.
Thus, they are launching their own taxi booking app — and it seems to be a pretty sophisticated one. The free app, called PAIR Taxi, will make sharing a taxi possible in the CBD area during peak hours.[caption id="attachment_334001" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Aspiring Citizens Cleantech[/caption]
While the app has not officially been launched yet, PAIR Taxi will allow you to select a pick up point from 20 taxi stands in the CBD, according to TODAY. Once you have entered the pick up and drop off locations, PAIR Taxi will assign a taxi to pick you up. The only difference this has from the usual taxi is that you will be sharing the taxi with a maximum of three passengers who are heading in the same direction. All passengers will have to board from the same taxi stand as yourself.
According to PAIR Taxi’s spokesperson Andy Zheng, “All you need is five taps (on your phone), and you are in the taxi, going home, chatting with your (new) friends, who probably work in the same building.”
Once you are dropped off at your location, your fare will be split with the other passengers based on your drop off location.
Concerns And Feasibility
PAIR Taxi will be available for download within the next two to three months, with an expected 300 taxis joining the app.
However, the success of the app will depend entirely on whether passengers are willing to share rides with strangers — this might be a bigger concern for female passengers. And given that there are already passengers who ask each other if they want to share rides during peak hours, the number of passengers who take to PAIR Taxi might be relatively small.[caption id="attachment_334011" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Dr Andy Zheng, creator of PAIR Taxi. (Image Credit: Ooi Boon Keong, TODAY)[/caption]
Other than security concerns, there is also the “mindshare” issue which PAIR Taxi will have to address. When one talks about taxi bookings, the brands that come to mind are GrabTaxi, ComfortDelGro, or UberTAXI — all of which aren’t lacking in taxi drivers currently. There’re also private car services like GrabCar and UberX.
Finally, there’s the issue of PAIR Taxi’s payment system. All passengers have to agree on the fare split upon arriving at their location, which could be a potential problem depending on who you meet.
If all these issues are addressed, I don’t see why PAIR Taxi can’t succeed as a final backup plan to get a ride out of the busy CBD area. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up with the same fate as Network Uncle, the taxi booking app launched earlier this year which never took off.
You will definitely know when it is time to let go of that phone of yours. When it slowly deteriorates, when the glass screen cracks, when apps start crashing unforgivingly, when it takes forever to load the home screen. Yup, that’s a sign all right. Or perhaps your iPhone is working perfectly fine, but you wouldn’t mind having an Android phone on the side.
But besides hitting the shops for that new phone, there is an alternative to queuing up at a telco store in the mall for a whole afternoon. Save a little time, and even some money — that’s what Singapore’s first mobile portal, OneStopMobile, is promising.[caption id="attachment_316062" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: OneStopMobile[/caption]
What is OneStopMobile?
Described as the first and only dedicated marketplace to trade mobile phones in Singapore, OneStopMobile was developed and designed to allow users to trade mobile phones securely, conveniently and with transparency. Frustrated about how messy the process is currently, Shaun Yap, founder of OneStopMobile, felt that there must be a better approach for consumers, so he began working on a solution.
“Presently, consumers who intend to buy or sell their mobile phones head to generic online classifieds, forums or marketplaces, which tend to be cluttered and disorganised,” said Shaun. “It is troublesome to negotiate the price, specifications, condition of the phone, etc. This is especially true for sellers who have to negotiate with buyers who may decide not to purchase at the end of the day. Most importantly, consumers could be purchasing mobile phones which have been reported stolen or lost.”[caption id="attachment_316931" align="aligncenter" width="732"] Image Credit: www.dawn.com[/caption]
To drive this sense of security and transparency, you’ll find that the first thing you see on the website —even before you register to sell or buy a phone — is a series of guides, FAQs, a ‘How Things Work’ manual, and an explanation of the benefits of using the portal. It’s as though the site wants to be clear with you from the get-go on what goes on at OneStopMobile.
Used phones? No problem.
Just because they are used phones, it doesn’t mean the handsets on OneStopMobile are dodgy ones. According to Shaun, all mobile phones listed on the site must go through a thorough check before they go up for sale. The International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of all phones are verified against the Stolen and Lost Property Index from the Singapore Police Force before they are allowed to be listed — so phew for all you worriers.[caption id="attachment_316071" align="aligncenter" width="700"] How it works. (Image Credit: OneStopMobile)[/caption]
Situation On The Phone
OneStopMobile is hassle-free and pretty efficient when it comes to purchasing or selling your phone on the platform. If you’re familiar with shopping platforms like Q0010 and the sorts, that is basically how OneStopMobile functions — so it’s all very straightforward.
How it differs, though, is that a comprehensive list of details of particular mobile phone models is made available to consumers. This saves time on any back-and-forth enquiries. So instead of the cryptic and badly lit pictures with terrible angles you usually get on shopping portals, OneStopMobile provides extensive photos on the phones, rating them from ‘New’ to ‘Fair’ — no need to worry about surprise dents and scratches upon collection.[caption id="attachment_316031" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Onestopmobile[/caption] [caption id="attachment_316041" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Onestopmobile[/caption] [caption id="attachment_316051" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Image Credit: Onestopmobile[/caption]
Enter The Marketplace
With multiple stores and options to choose from, the portal serves as a consolidated place for buyers to compare prices of new and used mobile phones. Sellers, on the other hand, are also able to receive offers from multiple interested parties. So it’s all fair on both ends, and everyone wins (we hope).
“OneStopMobile aims to be the marketplace of choice for individuals and businesses to purchase mobile phones easily and with a peace of mind,” said Shaun. He also hopes that mobile phone dealers will actively list their devices for sale on OneStopMobile as he is confident that this will bring about faster and increased turnover for their inventory.
Overall, looking at how detailed OneStopMobile is with the listing process, and the meticulous effort they put into providing good photos, we feel more or less secure engaging with the platform. Yet, it’s undeniable that the portal could do with a more user-friendly and fresh looking website to attract more users. Tech savvy users who live on the Internet, are pretty accustomed to good design and keeping up with the trend are likely to find the design of the site a bit bland.
That said, with annual sales of mobile phones in Singapore seeing an upward trend, coupled with a thriving second hand market for electronic goods, Shaun believes that more people will begin using OneStopMobile to sell their mobile phones. And with some sprucing up of the site, we don’t see why not.
Pets are an important part of the family to many in Singapore, mostly because they provide loyal companionship and joy to their owners. However, having a pet can sometimes be troublesome too, especially when you need to travel and there’s no one to tend to your pet.
This is where newly launched Petkeepa comes in.
As its name suggests, Petkeepa is made up of a community of pet lovers who are available to help take care of pets for pet owners when they are busy. Think of it as the Airbnb for pets: users can sign up as hosts so that owners who go out of town can find someone reliable to look after their pets. When users sign up, they can input their basic information such as the experience they have with hosting pets, what kind of pets they accept, along with the services they provide.
Here’s a look at Petkeepa:
From the looks of its website, there are currently about 10 hosts available across Singapore who are available to take care of your pets. Prices range from as low as S$5 per day to S$50 per day, and there are several other options you can select from too, such as for the host to walk your pet, or bathe them. Of course, these additional services will come with additional prices.
Will it work in Singapore?
While its US based counterpart DogVacay has seen much success — it exceeded 1 million nights booked on its platform last November — it is still early days for Petkeepa. It is not yet intuitive for pet owners to want to search for available hosts to look after their pets online. In most situations, pet owners are more likely to get the help of their friends and family, as opposed to leaving their pets to other pet owners for a fee.
Security is another issue that needs to be dealt with to ensure that pets are not harmed by pet-sitters. Also, there is the concern that pet owners may leave their pets with pet-sitters and not return to collect them. A thorough and complete check should be done on not just pet-sitters, but on other users who intend to leave their dogs or cats with pet-sitters.
That said, there are definitely pet owners who would be grateful for the chance to leave their pets in the hands of other pet owners when they are away, simply because they understand pets more, and know how to tend to pets.
The problem, for Petkeepa, is to find all these pet owners.
Grouvly, at first glance, looks every inch like a stereotypical dating site: Homepage with a photo of good-looking men and women? Check. Men and women are laughing and enjoying themselves over drinks? Check. Site has a tagline that includes the words “hook up”, “make new friends” or the like? Check, definitely.
But that’s where a visitor to the site would be wrong, because Grouvly, in actual fact, calls itself a “social club”. In an interview with co-founder and CEO Camilo Paredes, he explained that despite being aware that members are using the site for dating purposes, Grouvly wants to stay away from the stigma associated with dating sites and apps.
Instead, Grouvly invites members to bring along two friends to their meetup (or what they call “a Grouvly”), where they’ll meet with another group of three friends. The two groups are selected by the Grouvly team, and are chosen based on information from members’ Facebook profiles (users must register on the site via Facebook before they can attend meetups).
Grouvly locations are also decided upon by the team. This is because, as Camilo explains, “Our value proposition is not only about meeting/connecting with new people in the real world, but it’s also about venue discovery…if things go wrong, you’re still with your friends and it will be a good laugh.”[caption id="attachment_295311" align="aligncenter" width="744"] Image Credit: Grouvly[/caption]
Camilo, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur in the tech industry, shared how the idea for Grouvly came about. He was backpacking in Asia for five months, he says, when he noticed a unique opportunity in the region’s markets. The dating scene in Asia, in particular, had a fair number of problems, at least to Camilo:
- People are consumed by their mobile phones — in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea, groups of friends in bars are not talking to each other, and are instead glued to their mobiles.
- The dating scene is outdated and doesn’t solve the real problem: swiping, browsing and messaging keeps people online and makes it extremely hard for one to arrange a meetup with quality people in the real world.
- Asians in general are more timid and they have a hard time meeting new people.
To help, Camilo decided to start Grouvly. It was first launched in Hong Kong in January 2015, and as of last month, has made its way to Singapore’s shores.
Grouvly Experiences[caption id="attachment_295331" align="aligncenter" width="702"] The Grouvly team. (Image Credit: Grouvly)[/caption]
According to Camilo, Grouvly has benefitted not only their members; the team has also gained a member through the site, after Camilo made a hire on a Grouvly he attended.
He’s also heard quite the range of stories about members’ experiences: some users, he shared, moved together after meeting for the first time. Others became good friends, while in a somewhat NSFW turn, he revealed that he once got a call from their venue partners, “saying that two participants were having sex in the toilets while on a Grouvly.”
Grouvly seems like a promising enough idea: it’s different enough to pique my interest, and the fact that members can bring along friends — a comforting thought, especially for those who’re more shy — is likely to encourage sign ups.
That said, I can’t help but feel slightly creeped out by the tagline on their site — “You & 2 friends. Meet another group of 3. For a drink and beyond” — but maybe that’s just me.
Overall, I’d say that Grouvly is a pretty interesting addition to the local social scene. With a bit of luck — the site is still largely seen as a dating site, and the stigma associated with those is present among some groups of Singaporeans — and as word gets out, us shy Singaporeans might just get in on the social club fun.
Grouvly is currently fundraising, and plans to expand to new cities in Asia. Plans to launch a mobile app is also in the works.
There are many things that could go wrong with a night out. You could approach a girl or guy you’re interested in and get rejected. You could end up getting into a fight with the bartender because neither of you know whether you paid for your drink or not. There could be a massive crowd at the bar, leaving you without a drink at all.
A night out could go badly in so many ways.[caption id="attachment_294471" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Image Credit: yourcardiff.mediawales-1.titaninternet.co.uk[/caption]
That’s what local startup Buy Me A Drink (BMD) aims to fix. The social nightlife app has introduced a functional digital wallet, enhancing your nightlife experience via a single app.
The concept of the mobile wallet is this: when you enter a club, bar, or party, you begin the night by checking in on the BMD app, so that other people will be able to find you. You then select from a menu of drinks that is available to you on the app, place your order, and pay for it from your in-app mobile wallet. It generates a pin for you, which you present to the bartender in order to collect your drink.[caption id="attachment_294491" align="aligncenter" width="419"] Image Credit: Google Play[/caption]
According to BMD, the app will be able to cut down waiting time by 40%. It is also a great platform through which bars and clubs can offer seasonal promotions, giving users a frequent stream of discounts. The Public House, for example, will offer 10% off all drinks all day and night, and 20% off during Happy Hour, if you use the app to buy drinks.
Buy Me A Drink’s CTO, Damir Jakobic, said: “The F&B industry faces many challenges as it is, so we set out to design a very simple, free of charge system that would help them overcome some of the unnecessary hurdles, saying goodbye to chargebacks is just one of the perks”.[caption id="attachment_294501" align="aligncenter" width="416"] Image Credit: Google Play[/caption]
To make things more interesting, girls can take the initiative in social settings to prompt the guys they like to buy them a drink with a “Buy Me A Drink” prompt. Girls (or guys) can even state their choice of poison on the app, so that anyone interested will be able to get the drink you want. If you wish, you can also send drinks via the app to the person of your choice — a subtle mobile pickup, if you will.[caption id="attachment_294021" align="aligncenter" width="634"] Image Credit: Techinasia[/caption]
The social aspect of the app is a huge plus. It definitely brings a new element to a night out — one that even girls can look forward to. While many Singaporean guys would shy away from a girl forward enough to pick them up — or, god forbid, offer to buy them a drink — the Buy Me A Drink prompt provides a subtle way to flirt without scaring away potential targets.
Offering to buy someone a drink through an app may not be as impressive as actually being approached, but it does help provide a bit of buffer from that initial social anxiety. If things go sour, you won’t actually be in the company of a creep, anyway.
But though the idea is attractive, the app itself isn’t as sexy as the prospect entails. Despite the potential BMD has, it lags in user experience and style, especially for an app looking to be the go-to companion to a glamourous night out. The promotional videos for this app also seem to be very male-centric, which I feel most girls would shy away from. I doubt girls will hook up with a guy just because they succeed in guessing what drink they like.[caption id="attachment_293991" align="aligncenter" width="619"] I doubt any girl would hook up with a guy simply for successfully guessing what drink they like. Well done?[/caption]
The nightlife app isn’t exactly unchartered territory either, with locally-made apps like Frunk and Nox providing booking and reservation options and social engagement. Frunk has even introduced a social feature that allows you to privately send drinks to one another in the same bar/pub. BMD may have been around for a while, but its design isn’t keeping up with its competition.
It’s not clear if BMD’s competitors will expand to include a mobile wallet — one of the biggest game-changers BMD has — anytime soon, but an improvement in app experience and design on BMD’s part would definitely help the platform become as sexy as the experience it promises.
The new BMD app is available on the iTunes store, and the release for Android has been set for July. A series of demo days are scheduled around the city, and the public can expect free drinks just by taking the app for a spin.
One of the things we think we do pretty well is discovering new, interesting apps or products — or at least, we think they are interesting enough. In one of our previous “Startups to Watch”, we featured Fuzzie, a sexy new gifting app we can’t wait to use. For this instalment, we chanced upon Letgo.
Letgo is an app that allows you to buy and sell second hand items. If you have an item you no longer need, just snap a photo of it and post a listing on Letgo. Need second hand items? You can browse through all the listings on the app and chat with sellers. Based in the US, Letgo seems to be ramping up its activities in Singapore. According to its Google Play page, it has been downloaded between 500,000 to 1,000,000 times.
Most of us are familiar with Carousell, the mobile marketplace in Singapore which has since expanded to the rest of Southeast Asia. Upon a closer look at both Letgo and Carousell, it’s clear that both user interfaces bear many similarities. S0 what determines the success of these marketplaces is how liquid they are.
In terms of liquidity, Carousell is by far the leader here: there are tens of thousands of active buyers and sellers interacting with each other everyday on the platform. Carousell has claimed that their average user opens the app 10 times a day, and spends about 25 minutes on it daily — a significant achievement for a home-grown app.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Carousell App[/caption]
Carousell has also managed to penetrate much of the mainstream market in Singapore, dominating the “mobile eBay” mindshare. It would be hard for anyone to dethrone Carousell as the number one mobile marketplace — at least not in the foreseeable future.
In terms of competition, Letgo is not the first one to try to corner the lucrative and growing mobile commerce space. We’ve covered three notable ones:
1) Trezo by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) — an e-commerce platform for users to buy and sell items. Launched back in April, Trezo has gotten 5,000-10,000 downloads on Google Play, and according to a Straits Times article, more than 5,000 listings.
2) Tompang, a hybrid m-commerce platform that not only allows users to buy and sell goods, but also tell Tompang what they want, at what price, and even possibly where to buy it.
3) Duriana, a mobile marketplace app launched in early 2014, has over 110,000 products listed on its platform (as at 2014). Duriana is backed by Rocket Internet, a company known for its speed of execution and for replicating existing business models that work.
So Letgo is not the first company trying to win the mobile commerce battle in Singapore — one which, we might argue, is already half won by Carousell, judging from the activities on the homegrown app.
Will it work? We won’t discount Letgo just yet; after all, it managed to garner an impressive number of downloads from Google Play in a short span of time. That said, there is not a lot of activity on its social page, and neither could we get any other information from its website. What we do know, though, is that we will be keeping an eye out for Letgo.
First up, let me admit that I don’t use any food apps. Nope, none at all. Sure, I make restaurant reservations online — in fact, my introverted self is a huge proponent of online reservations, because it means I won’t have to speak to anyone — but I’ve often found many food apps to be lacking in more ways than one.
Some are good for recommending new places, for example, but don’t allow me to make reservations; those that do don’t offer me quite enough reviews from other diners to help me decide if it’s worthwhile to make a trip down. So I end up relying heavily on friends — and the Internet — to tell me where I should go for my next meal.
And then WOMP (pronounced woh-omp) came along, and got my attention.
Before I jumped straight in and began making dinner plans, I spoke to Melanie Chen, the co-founder of WOMP, to find out more about the platform.
WOMP (or What’s On My Plate) is basically a mobile app that allows users to search for and read food reviews about various dining establishments, make reservations, place orders, redeem loyalty points, and share their experiences on social media, amongst other features.[caption id="attachment_280822" align="aligncenter" width="433"] Image Credit: Google Play[/caption]
It is currently available on Google Play, and Melanie revealed that they have plans to make it available to iOS users in the near future.
The Team Behind WOMP
WOMP was co-founded by Melanie and Lim; while the former brought her love for food and web design to the young startup, the latter contributed years of experience as a restaurateur and knowledge of IT development to the team.[caption id="attachment_280842" align="aligncenter" width="441"] Image Credit: Google Play[/caption]
Melanie explained that the idea for the app came about as the pair noticed a gap in the food industry — consumers did not have a tool that allowed them to bookmark promotions from various restaurants, and there wasn’t a single platform that allowed foodies to discover, plan and place orders for their next gastronomic adventure.
What’s Special About WOMP?
One of my biggest concerns, as someone who doesn’t use food apps, is how WOMP differs from apps that have come before it. After all, if I’ve found its predecessors lacking, I wouldn’t be likely to download WOMP if it doesn’t offer me something new.
Melanie was quick to highlight three features of WOMP:
1. Rewards[caption id="attachment_280872" align="aligncenter" width="438"] Some of the rewards users can get when they recommend restaurants to their friends/family via WOMP. (Image Credit: Google Play)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_280862" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Some of the rewards users can get in exchange for loyalty ‘punches’. (Image Credit: Google Play)[/caption]
Users who recommend restaurants to their friends and family via WOMP can receive items from food establishments in exchange for their efforts. They can also collect ‘punches’ which they can then use to redeem rewards such as discounts off their total bills.
While this feature was clearly introduced to incentivise users to make use of the platform for food discovery and to receive dining deals, I’m not quite so sure about how promising the loyalty card system will turn out to be. Other rewards platforms like Perx, for example, did make use of such a feature, but it lost favour with consumers soon enough.
2. Reviews[caption id="attachment_280892" align="aligncenter" width="441"] Reviews on WOMP (Image Credit: Google Play)[/caption]
Reviews on WOMP are obtained from Yelp and TripAdvisor, which together offer nearly 300 million reviews from diners on over 2 million restaurants. Other food apps, in comparison, get their reviews from only one source.
3. Hot Deals[caption id="attachment_280882" align="aligncenter" width="437"] WOMP’s Hot Deals tab. (Image Credit: Google Play)[/caption]
All available restaurant deals are collated under a single tab, making it easy for users to sift through and pick the ones they are interested in. Diners can also bookmark deals by adding them to WOMP’s Diary tab, one of my favourite features. This helps keep track of the promotions which users are keen on, and allows them to view reservations and orders they have made at specific food outlets.[caption id="attachment_280902" align="aligncenter" width="439"] WOMP’s Diary feature (Image Credit: Google Play)[/caption]
WOMP, as a whole, is an app that has done a respectable job of incorporating various features that users might want into a single platform. The Diary tab, in particular, is something that could appeal to users.
That said, features like its rewards system is not exactly groundbreaking, and the design of the app is pretty disappointing — its layout does appear somewhat messy at times, and colours slightly too muted to make the app look beautiful.
Guess I’ll be waiting around a bit more before I get to download that elusive food app of my dreams.
A lot of startups are dabbling in the idea of reinventing the F&B industry as we know it, by creating new and exciting platforms and apps that provide consumers with interesting options.
Silent Mode recently rolled out the Beta Version of their new app called Slurp! Cook, an app for home cooked food sellers who’d like to create online stores for themselves.
Regarding the app, Reza Razali (co-founder) said, “For entrepreneurs selling their home-cooked foods including hari raya delicacies starting this upcoming fasting month, Slurp! Cook can be a useful tool to have. Once the shops are online on Slurp! Mobile app, customers within the Klang Valley who enjoy home-cooked foods can use their own phone to check out food selections and place an order for delivery with just a few clicks of a button”.
The premise of the app is that if you’re interested in becoming a home cook that earns a living, you can first register with Silent Mode and then proceed to potentially take orders from all the app users who live in the Klang Valley.[caption id="attachment_274821" align="aligncenter" width="702"] Image Credit: Slurp[/caption]
The beta app is currently available on the Android platform and it does come with key features that are quite useful.
1. Menu Setup[caption id="attachment_274831" align="aligncenter" width="411"] Image Credit: Slurp[/caption]
You can quickly upload your menu and all related details to the app’s dashboard all through your smartphone. You may choose to make changes to the menu at any given time and they will be reflected in real time. You don’t need to have any extensive IT skill.
2. Instant Order Notification[caption id="attachment_274841" align="aligncenter" width="372"] Image Credit: Slurp[/caption]
Every time a potential customer places an order through the Slurp! Mobile customer app, you would be instantly notified and you may choose to either accept or reject their order.
3. Slurp! Cloud for analytics[caption id="attachment_274851" align="aligncenter" width="417"] Image Credit: Slurp[/caption]
You can use the analytics and reports provided by the Slurp! Cloud and make more informed decisions when accepting orders.
Reza Razali also remarked, “We are excited with the introduction of Slurp! Cook. We aim to help entrepreneurs of microbusinesses become more efficient at managing customer orders. They can also make smarter business decisions using analytics reports that we make avaialable for them 24/7.”[caption id="attachment_274861" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Image Credit: Slurp[/caption]
While the app is still a beta, it would be interesting to see how the final roll out would be. I’m looking forward to how the larger brands in the F&B ecosystem respond to apps and platforms that favor home cooks.
While I understand the craze with home cooked food, will they ever be able to compete with the speed, the ease and finesse of traditional fast food chains?
Regardless of the apps or the platforms, can a person living somewhere in the Klang Valley deliver my food faster than say Dominos?
I can’t wait for 2 hours while I’m starving just so I can enjoy a healthy meal—I’d rather die.
If you want to sign up as a cook to advertise and simplify your home business through the app, you can do so here for free.