Agritech, KYC, design: how these entrepreneurs showcase the importance of precision, positioning, and partnerships
Following up on our photo essays on startups at the Mobile World Congress 2019, we continue to dig into emerging opportunities in the wireless world, marketing strategies, and the ability to form international alliances.Madanmohan Rao
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona offers a wealth of opportunities each year to spot established as well as emerging trends, gather insights from pioneers, and figure out the next hot space to be in. See our five photo essays from MWC 2019 on networked robots, innovative startups, creative marketing, 4YFN pavilion, and government promotion.
In our second analysis piece on MWC 2019, we feature insights from entrepreneurs in diverse fields: KYC solutions, agritech, and product design (see our first analysis article here). Each of the entrepreneurs shares views on current offerings, international growth, and success tips.
The rapid rise of the smartphone as a tool for everything from messaging and photographs to transactions and entertainment has opened up a number of opportunities for entrepreneurs in the space of KYC (know your customer).
“We are a global KYC solution company and focus on digital user on-boarding. We have customers from sectors like banking, finance, airports and airlines,” said Yasin Patel, CEO and Product Director at KYC solutions firm AccuraScan, in a chat with YourStory. The international customers are from around the world, such as the US, EU, Russia, Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
This year, the company is focusing on its core OCR product for recognising ID cards, as well as face match with 3D technology for liveness detection. It has a tie-up with FaceTec’s ZoOm, a 3D selfie face authentication technology for wireless devices.
Founded in August 2017, AccuraScan has eight employees and over 40 customers. Its booth at MWC 2019 was part of the India pavilion organised by the Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC).
One of the notable agritech startups at 4YFN was SMARF, a Korean IoT-based smart farming solution for better irrigation. There is broad interest in distributing or applying agricultural IoT solution to outdoor farms such as vineyards, according to Eric Seo, Overseas Manager for SMARF.
“We have tied up with Orion Confectionery, the largest potato chip manufacturer in Korea. Last year, we signed an MoU with Orion and SKT where we deployed SMARF irrigation solutions to some Orion-contracted potato farms in Korea. The result was successful with the marketable yield increased by about 30 percent,” Eric claims.
More than 400 potato farms in Korea supply produce to Orion as raw material for potato chips, all of which are potential targets for SMARF solutions. Some companies that showed interest in SMARF during MWC2019 were solution integrators and farm owners from Spain, India, Bulgaria, Thailand, and South America, according to Eric. The company has a range of investors including Bluepoint Partners and Mirae Holdings in Korea.
“This year, SMARF irrigation solution will be applied to some potato farms in China, which will be the first overseas business reference case,” Eric says. After finishing the project in China, the products and services of SMARF will be refined based on the results.
SMARF multi-depth sensors are being field-tested this year in Korea and China. SMARF valves, which currently support WiFi, RF and LoRa communication, will be updated to support more communication networks such as NB IoT. “In addition, battery life for the valves will be improved significantly once a planned optimisation process is successfully completed,” Eric adds.
By aggregating and analysing the data gathered in potato farms in Korea and China, SMARF aims to enhance the optimal potato irrigation scenario for best yield and marketability. Next targets for this potato-specific IoT-based irrigation solution could be Pepsico/Fritolay, Calbee, and other global potato chip giants, Eric explains.
The mobile boom is also driving the fortunes of design-led firms such as Amsterdam-headquartered Shop Go-Case, which makes phone accessories for 12 product lines. “We transform trends into designs that we apply in our product lines, converting them into wearable ideas. We have over 2,000 designs available at the moment, and every day we create new ones,” explains Macarena Paagman, Growth Hacker at Shop Go-Case.
“Our differentiating element from competitors is design and customisation. We plan to increase the portfolio by launching five new product lines. Also, we are aiming to gain a stronger foothold in the US, and EU,” Macarena adds.
Another design-led entrepreneur at MWC was Christina Cyr, Founder of dTOOR; she is also the CEO and CTO. The company makes ‘Non-Rectangular Phones for Non-Rectangular People,’ starting with a phone in the shape of a circle, called ‘The Cyrcle Phone.’
In September 2016, dTOOR launched a Kickstarter campaign with a 2G prototype of The Cyrcle Phone. “We delivered all rewards – such as phones, glasses, T-shirts – within 60 days,” Christina says. dTOOR has been working on the 4G LTE Android version of The Cyrcle Phone, which is soon to be released.
The startup advantage
Being a founder in the fast-moving mobile sector is full of ups and downs, but is worth the experience, according to many of the entrepreneurs at MWC 2019. “Setting your dreams and trying your best to achieve them is the greatest part of being a startup,” Macarena of Shop Go-Case explains.
Peer networks of entrepreneurs are also a great source of learning. “We had the great chance to plug into entrepreneur networks, which provided us with the opportunity to gain the right knowledge, useful tips on avoiding mistakes, and learning to look forward,” she adds.
Another advantage of being in a startup is meeting amazing people and being able to learn incredible amounts of information – every single day, according to Cristina of dTOOR.
“Being a startup in Korea entails some benefits including some governmental assistance programmes,” adds Eric of SMARF. The Korean government hosted a number of pavilions at MWC showcasing its tech prowess.
Exhibitions and conferences
Exhibiting at the world’s largest mobile event offers a lot of advantage for entrepreneurs in terms of knowledge and positioning. But the experience at the giant event can also be overwhelming, and calls for systematic planning and execution.
“It has been great and very favourable to participate at FY4N-MWC. It has given us the possibility to extend our network,” says Macarena of Shop Go-Case. “Also, this experience has made it possible to get exposure to different country market players,” she adds.
The company feels it is quite well known in the B2C sector, but visibility as a brand in the B2B is more difficult. “Therefore we feel this congress helped us a lot to increase brand awareness,” Macarena says.
“During MWC, we were able to meet people from various countries, and potential clients from all walks of life. This diversity has helped us realise various needs and requirements we were unable to catch in the past,” explains Eric of SMARF.
“If there had been some opportunities to meet companies engaging in the same field as ours during MWC, it would have been an even greater experience for us,” he adds, which should serve as useful community management advice for organisers of such events.
“MWC is a huge event, the only IT event in the globe of this scale. It gives entrepreneurs valuable opportunities to network and learn. You can scale your product, and introduce new segments,” Yasin of AccuraScan explains.
MWC offers useful insights even in pre-launch stages of new products. “It is so hard to attend MWC when we are not allowed to show our product yet. I can't wait for the world to know! But it is always wonderful meeting new people and learning about their products and technological advances,” says Cristina of dTOOR.
The startup founders at MWC 2019 also offer a range of tips for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Show up to work every day, no matter what happened the day before. Continuity is an important part of progress,” says Christina of dTOOR.
“Our magical formula may sound clichéd: trying hard, failing a lot, and being very fast in identifying the mistakes in order to learn how to succeed,” says Macarena of Shop Go-Case. “It is essential to think from Day One that your business needs to be profitable; otherwise, you won't survive beyond the first six months,” she cautions.
“Founders need to realistically distinguish between what they wish to do and what they are capable of. Since investors are not a charity, they will assess you from the feasibility and profitability point of view,” cautions Eric of SMARF.
“A startup is a rescue. The founder is one who converts a pain into a gain,” says Yasin of AccuraScan, aptly summing up how entrepreneurs see opportunities in problems.
As parting words for startups, he cites Albert Einstein: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem, and five minutes thinking about solutions.”