Asian Startups and the Platform Business Model


2017 has seen some amazing new Asian startups rising in the technology and business sector that have taken full use of digital advancements without losing the human touch in the process. Such companies have in common a unique networking platform for linking information and people, suggesting that the modern business model revolves around the connection of market players. Read on four startups in Asia created to promote lifestyle and efficient communication throughout the various fields of health, culture, literature, media, and design.

[Japan] Z-Works: Humanity Over Technology

Japanese inventor, Makoto Ogawa, after losing his grandparents and parents one after another, suffered from bitter regret of not having been able to do anything. This compelled him to stretch his thoughts for a solution. What would provide 24-hour monitoring for elderly in need?

Some health services suggested the use of surveillance cameras to follow the movement and health conditions of senior citizens in the home. But this is followed by additional problems of privacy and personal space.

Ogawa, understanding the discomfort that is associated with cameras in the home created devices that would monitor the elderly through non-visual means. Z-Works (2015)—co-run by Ogawa himself and colleague, Tatsuya Takahashi—is the innovative startup for Ogawa’s products. The organization seeks to enhance daily living without depriving users of their humanity. For the two executives, technological development does not necessarily equal artificial replacement of the human motion; technology always remains a tool, and only a tool, for aiding the human experience.


One of Ogawa’s main inventions is a sensory lightbulb (meant to be placed above the bed) that can measure heartrate, breathing, and movement. The elderly will use it as a nightlight and as a monitoring tool for guardians. Another sensor detects motion by gauging light, temperature, and humidity. Ogawa has also created a door sensor that sends input messages as soon as a door is opened or closed. Z-Works Life Engine (IoT platform) then links all the sensory devices and conducts deep analysis of input data. Users use this data and control devices directly from their smartphones.

By ensuring a way to “keep an eye” on parents while respecting their privacy, Z-Works is the alternative to invasive monitoring technology. Convenience, safety, and humanity are all provided through a network of technological hardware and software for a new era of electronic advancement.


[Korea & USA] Radish Media and Innovative Publishing

People say you can’t make money off of writing, but CEO and co-founder of startup Radish Media Inc. (2015), Seung-yoon Lee, would argue otherwise. Books are neither outdated nor are writers wasting their time creating content. All they need is…a little bit of help.

By establishing a three-way network between authors, writers, and publishing company, novels in-the-making are sent through a feedback chain, leaving no published novel left unread or discarded. Freelance authors upload their stories a chapter at a time and if readers want to read more, they will pay cyber-money (“coins”) for the next chapter to be uploaded.


Through Radish’s interaction-based literature network, readers confirm their preferred content, and being affirmed by such readers, authors will know whether or not to move on with their work. Instead of claiming any property rights of the shared content, Radish allows writers to raise personal funds for their stories.

It all started with Lee’s love for webtunes that were being circulated amongst readers as text messages. In an interview with Cool Hunting, Lee says, “I had the benefit of seeing this movement take off in Asia. Serialized content is a very old concept, and one that’s already been reinvented for the digital age. I’ve seen it working in Japan. Back in 2005, people were reading stories in text message format.”

Now, Radish has become the leading pioneer of online serialized novels and since its establishment, has raised almost three million dollars in seed financing by Silicon Valley investors, Hollywood, and the publishing industry. The app’s most popular author currently makes 13,000 dollars a month through a steady and loyal readership.

It is a win-win environment for all three participating sectors and an effort that endorses novels in a time when graphic media seems to be taking over the entertainment and culture atmosphere.


[India] Talking Photos Through Voxweb

Today, even pictures can speak. As soon as Priyanka Chopra, one of India’s most beloved and highest-paid actresses, used the Voxweb mobile application to thank fans after winning the People’s Choice Award in January 2016, followers were in craze over her “talking picture”.

Rather than just another online picture of herself holding the award, Chopra warmly reached out to fans saying, “This is possible only because of you guys. Thank you with all my heart for your constant love, support, and encouragement. I am, because you make me who I am”.

Whilst attending India Institute of Technology, Yash Mishra (founder of Voxweb, 2015) noticed a new group of social media users known as “Facebook-Nevers” who deliberately refused Facebooking because of privacy matters and bombardment of advertisements. These people opted for the quieter mode of photo-sharing: Instagram.


By creating a service through which images would be shared through voiced captions, users could directly convey the immediate emotions and the singularity of the experience within the photo. It became as if a friend had opened their smartphone to tell you the story behind each photo in their gallery—and you were invited to understand the nuances of the moment.

Some claimed Voxweb would soon die-out with Instagram’s video option. After all, who would upload a voiced image when they could just share a video clip? 500,000 users would.

These users have concluded that while video clips can bring on fears of privacy and surveillance by unwanted viewers, voice-augmented pictures on Voxweb enhance lifeless images and still not reveal much. Having recently raised one million dollars in web funding, Voxweb continues to take its stance as the new floor for connecting the voices of diverse cultures.


[Vietnam] Designbold for the Amateur Designer

For Hung Dinh, CEO and founder of Vietnamese startup Designbold, all it takes is an idea. And the world has always been full of them. People are wired with thoughts—the problem is turning those thoughts into reality. Especially in the world of graphic designing, without certain skill-sets, it is hard to make even a simple logo or website banner.


That is why Dinh wanted to create base where anyone could create neat and edgy visual designs even with no technical training on design software. Designbold was first launched in 2015 with Dinh’s simple and easy-to-follow design templates. Clean lines and bold colors were emphasized to suit a growing visual generation and membership plans were differentiated into Free, Pro, and Team versions for flexible use.

The company provided its initial layouts and welcomed template designs made by other users. Designbold soon became a multi-directional platform for sharing modern designs and connecting customers, designers, and printers for a faster and more efficient market. Professional and amateur designers come together for shared projects that allow a feedback system and the possibility for a continual flow of novel content.

Two years later, over 4500 customizable templates are now uploaded to the Designbold cloud station and 35,674 subscribers together have created more than 40,106 designs. Quiet immediately after being launched, global demand for Designbold programs skyrocketed and the company has well exceeded its own national borders to becoming an international startup.

All that time used in learning how to use complicated software programs can be spent in the actual making of and no energy wasted on flipping through manuals. Indeed, “Every idea, if it can be thought, it can be created; and it should be created beautifully by anyone who dares to dream it” (Designbold motto on company website).


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