Builk wins Echelon 2012 Launchpad, Between emerges as runner-up


Patai (trophy in hand) flanked by the judges.

Builk is the winner of this year’s Echelon Launchpad. The Thai startup is a professional social network for the construction industry that doubles as a construction management web app.

Ten startups each had their turn in the cauldron at Echelon 2012’s pitch competition. Definitely a highlight among attendees, the Launchpad had put startups under the intense spotlight as they pitch and try to impress both the sophisticated crowd and inscrutable judges.

During Builk’s pitch, principal and co-founder Patai Padungtin shared that 1,400 construction firms have already registered with Builk since their launch in 2010.

(Read: Builk walks where few tech startups tread: Changing the construction industry)

He also revealed that they plan to expand to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia, and add new modules to Builk, such as the ability to collect pre-construction information from contractors.

Patai was quizzed by the judges on their mobile strategy and their business model. In response, he said that they have an Android app that lets users take photos of construction to document progress and show project owners the quality of the work.

Data collected by Builk will not be sold — they are used as market research for the construction industry. Instead, it relies purely on ad-support. Interested advertisers have included construction service providers, universities offering related courses, and suppliers.

As the champion, the startup has been awarded passes to Blackberry 10 Jam roadshow, Amazon gift vouchers worth US$100, and a Microsoft Azure cloud computing package worth US$60,000.

Here are some reactions from the floor:



Following closely behind Builk is Between, a popular private social network for couples which has amassed 900,000 downloads, 60 percent of which have become monthly active users. This makes it one of the most popular social networks for lovebirds in the world.

Developed by South Korean company VCNC, which has already raised funds from Softbank, Between is aimed at unmarried and young married couples in their twenties and thirties.

(Read: South Korean app Between, a private social network for couples, amasses over 400k users)

During the Q&A, the judges wondered whether Between was sufficiently differentiated from chat apps like Kakao and Whatsapp. In response, co-founder Edward Lee said that Between not only offers couples a private hotline to one another, but also allows the sharing of photo memories, much like Facebook.

A couple of inspired questions were raised about what happens if a user wants to connect with multiple partners, or if couples connected on Between want to break up.

Answering the first, Edward says that amorous users can simply create another account, although the company doesn’t actively encourage that.

Addressing the second question, he brought the audience to a complicated flowchart that shows what happens under such a scenario.

Turns out there’s an option for partner A to “break up” with partner B on the app. If A initiatives the digital divorce, A will not be able to see B’s content, although the breakee can still spy on the heart-breaker. There’s even a one-month grace period should the tempestous pair decide to make amends. Both accounts are permanently erased if no action is taken. Clever.

Some reactions from the audience:



The judges were: Michel Birnbaum, partner at iGlobe Partners;  Edgar Hardless, CEO of SingTel Innov8Zia Zaman, founder and CEO of Beaver Lake CapitalYasuhiko Yurimoto, founder and CEO of Global BrainDavid Patterson, global alliance operation at Reseach in Motion; and Vincent Lauria, founding partner at Golden Gate Ventures.

Organized by tech blog e27 for the third year running, Echelon 2012 is a key startup launchpad in Asia with over 1,100 delegates in attendance and 50 startups exhibiting in the Marketplace. Check out SGE’s coverage of the event.

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