6 Great Asian Startups
2 Aug 12:05 PM
6 Great Asian Startups
Solving the Environmental Issues
For some time, it seemed like environmental issues were being completely ignored. Around the world, people were turning a blind eye to air pollution, petrol usage, plastic waste, and other pressing issues that are actively affecting our communities and the world we live in.
Today, the perspective has changed – even in Asia, the host often to some particularly bad offenders.
Now more than ever before, startups are popping up working to solve the pressing environmental issues of today. Whether it’s waste reduction or waste collection, these startups are working to pioneer greener solutions that create win/win situations for consumers and businesses alike.
Here’s a look at six startups across Asia who are using technology, including electric vehicles and mobile apps, to innovate and pioneer clean, green solutions for our people and our planet.
Founded in 2011, Aihuishou is a revolutionary Chinese platform where companies can bid on the recycling and second-hand electronics of consumers, like mobile phones. Their consumer-to-business model was first conceptualised years ago and they entered into their first round of Series A funding in October of 2011. Since then, they have raised a total of US$277.6 million, and there’s no wonder why.
The improper disposal of electronics like mobile phones can contribute to harmful soil and water pollution that affects everyone. Meanwhile, these electronics could be responsibly recycled and often have parts completely reused with little or no remanufacturing required. As such, it only makes sense that consumers are educated on the matter and given the resources they need to keep these products out of waste bins.
Many have bought into the idea, and that’s what has helped Aihuishou reach the pivotal point it is at today. Now holding more than 260 physical stores across the region and almost 2,000 recycling machines, Aihuishou has recently expanded to include a pick-up service as well so they can collect more electronics. This growth has spurred a US$1.5 billion valuation from JD.com and other investors.
Aihuishou has also launched a B2B platform that facilitates business to business transactions while allowing Aihuishou to profit through commission fees. Meanwhile, the company is looking to expand their C2B business globally, starting with Hong Kong, Dubai, and Miami where they are currently building.
This valuation appears well-deserved considering that Aihuishou’s 2017 transaction volume was more than RMB 4 billion (US$587.5 million) and they predict 2018 will reach RMB 10 billion (US$1.5 billion). Last year saw an incredible 135 per cent growth, and with the addition of a B2B platform and planned C2B growth, there is little doubt that they can reach their transaction goal for this year.
Based in India, a country suffering from some of the worst air pollutions in the world, Ather Energy is a startup that designs and sells premium electric two-wheelers. Their goal is to change the perspective of electrical vehicles by inventing high-performance, low-maintenance, and smart electric transportation solutions. They have raised more than $40 million since 2014 and are one of the most prominent electric vehicle companies in India.
Not only are they pioneering in the design and engineering of electric scooters themselves, they are also implementing smart technology in an attempt to turn low maintenance electric scooters into zero maintenance electric scooters.
With their smart technology, they are looking to stay true to the fundamental promise that a connected vehicle is able to be in a state of constant improvement. With a smart interface, they’re helping future users service their vehicle better by finding failures and issues sooner and better than others. Remote diagnostics and other tools are being implemented to achieve that, and firmware updates, tracking, and other aspects will also factor in.
At the same time, Ather Energy is taking multiple steps to ensure that the electric scooters they offer are coming at a lower cost than competitors while offering better longevity for the end user. In the coming years, I predict to see substantial growth for this company and in the market as a whole.
When it comes to reducing paper and plastic waste, one of the best ways to do so is through the reduction of physical coupons, tickets, loyalty and membership cards. PassKit is one company who has developed several solutions around mobile wallet technology to aid in this reduction, setting out on a mission to replace such paper and plastic waste entirely by utilizing Apple Wallet and Google Pay.
For many large enterprises such as Best Western and Heathrow Airport, PassKit is the go-to partner for mobile wallet solutions, helping them to significantly reduce waste and save millions per year on plastic cards and direct mail distribution alone.
To also empower small business owners and help them compete with big players such as Starbucks and Wallgreens, PassKit developed Loopy Loyalty, a customer loyalty marketing SaaS which helps coffee shops, nail salons, and everything in between launch a digital loyalty card without the need to develop an app or tech knowledge required.
This not only encourages repeat business from customers without contributing to waste but also gives its users a brand new marketing channel that helps them reach customers in a more effective and efficient form such as location-based push messages and detailed analytics into consumer behaviour.
From PassKit’s headquarters in Hong Kong, they have raised more than $2.1 million and are experiencing strong growth as mobile wallet adoption among consumers starts to accelerate and more companies are starting to see the positive impact of implementing a strong mobile wallet strategy has on their brand, marketing and revenues.
In Southeast Asia, SolarHome is the place to go for PAYG (Pay-As-You-Go) solar. Off-grid homes across the region rely on the pioneering company for the installation and maintenance of their solar-powered equipment. Since 2016, the Singapore-based startup raised $4.4 million to fund their mission and have quickly built a name for themselves as the leading solar energy provider in the region.
SolarHome installs integrated solar energy and applicant units for their customers right inside their home, but what really sets them apart is their radically affordable plans which are set up in a “rent-to-own” type fashion. Their energy service subscription is able to dramatically reduce the cost barriers most people face when trying to add solar power, which in turn is making for a tremendous social impact.
Although SolarHome is headquartered in Singapore, they operate in Myanmar. As of now, SolarHome is delivering solar services to more than 27 million households across Southeast Asia. These homes, located outside of the traditional electric grid, would otherwise be powerless if not for SolarHome’s efforts, and the whole project was developed by FORUM, the leading finch venture builder across Asia.
Taiwan is home to plenty of green startups, but perhaps none as well-known as Gogoro. They are one of the leading electric scooter manufacturers on the market, delivering on their mission to combine innovations consumers will love with clean, green energy that’s good for the planet. They have raised an incredible $480 million since launching in 2011.
Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, has even backed the company and their promise to transform the world’s megacities into smart cities that feature electric vehicles and other new technology. As of now, the scooter company has their eyes set on Southeast Asia, where air pollution is growing at a choking pace and over-jammed streets criss-cross the region.
Gogoro sold its very first electric scooter in 2015 to customers in Taiwan. However, the road has not been easy. Although the Taiwanese have an air pollution plan in place that aims to ban non-electric motorcycles by 2035, entry into the industry has proved difficult. Traditional motorcycle and scooter manufacturers are putting up a tough fight to hold on to their market share. Gogoro came close to having their battery-swapping system become the national standard, but decision-makers have not finalized that commitment as of yet.
Regardless, as non-electric scooters begin to fade from the marketplace in Taiwan and beyond, Gogoro is definitely going to be the name that comes to mind as consumers move to replace them with a cleaner, greener alternative.