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Highlights from day 1 afternoon sessions at Startup Asia Singapore 2014

Razer CEO: Hardware is disrupting software

The second half of day one here at Startup Asia opened with a keynote by gaming hardware startup Razer’s co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“Hardware gets people passionate; people get really, really excited,” Tan told the audience. He then showed a slide of hardcore Razer users who tattooed the company logo on their bodies (one even had it on the side of his neck!).

Tan also discussed what he called Hardware 2.0. He used GoPro as an example, saying that it became much more than just a camera company in order to move hundreds of millions of units.

Razer produces mice, headphones, laptops, and wearables under the slogan “products for gamers by gamers.” The company has shipped more than 13 million smart devices (that Tan says are all connected to the cloud) and boasts over 1.5 million daily active users, or 4 million monthly active users.

When asked to describe his company, Tan landed on the words “cult-like” and “religious.” He shared an anecdote about having a Razer staff member pop into an engineering interview to tell the interviewer that his wife had just delivered their baby – in order to gauge the reaction of the interviewee. If they freak out, they aren’t good for the company, he said.

Tan was a definite audience favorite with his funny anecdotes and honest replies during the fireside chat with Tech in Asia’s Gwendolyn Regina Tan.

Hardware startups in Southeast Asia

The audience clapped for Dema Tio, co-founder of Vibease, as he held up a pink vibrator and explained that only half of women have experienced an orgasm. “People don’t realize that vibrators started as medical devices,” he said. The downside?

Raising money for the sex industry is much harder than the rest.

Pulkit Jaiswal, the founder of Garuda Robotics, showed off a small drone and alluded to the Flight MH370 tragedy by telling the audience that drones could help speed up the search for a missing plane. His focus was on the services that drones could provide to humanity.

Jaiswal said that establishing a hardware startup is “exponentially harder than doing a software startup” but added that Singapore offers a distinct advantage: easy access to talent. He believed that the time is now to enter the market:

Everyone is doing apps but the reality is that we’re reaching a stage where the next few giant companies will be companies that do an interplay of hardware and software. I think there’s never been a better time to get on the hardware bandwagon.

Fan Mingwei, co-founder of Bio3D, said that his business has a real opportunity in SEA because bio printing is a new concept for the region. Pirate3D (along with Vibease) mentioned interest further north – in Japan.

Singapore is well known for making quality products, and this is aiding the burgeoning market for domestic hardware.

After the panel closed, Vibease inspired lots of sex puns from the event MC, Richard Robinson, getting lots of belly laughs from the crowd.

Myanmar is about to have 60 million internet users

After decades of closed-down, “North Korea-like” conditions in Myanmar, Rita Nguyen, founder and CEO of Squar.asia, believes the country is expected to experience an internet boom.

“SIM cards costed $2,000 two years ago,” Nguyen said. Recent changes to the political system began lifting some of the strict media and business regulations that kept millions of citizens disconnected. She added that SIM cards and wi-fi will become available to the general public soon:

60 million [people] are coming online overnight.

People in Myanmar know the word “Facebook” more so than “Internet,” Nguyen added.

A surprising discovery for Nguyen was finding out that young people in Myanmar are happy to use their real names online – likely due to being stifled for so long

Nguyen emphasized that the potential for startups and investors is huge:

Myanmar borders with more than 40 percent of the world population, yet it’s still an untapped virgin market.

The evening continued with region-specific breakout tracks, investor speed dating, and an opportunity for attendees to meet the Tech in Asia bloggers.

As for tomorrow…

Editing by Steven Millward

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