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Industry crossroads: Digital meets creative

Written by Michelle Ng, Quest Ventures Published on     6 mins read

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Connected fitness, wearables, and sustainable spaces demonstrate the advancements of South Korea’s creative economy.

The digital and creative industries are at a crossroads, with the global COVID-19 pandemic providing an unavoidable backdrop in its trajectory. The creative industry in Southeast Asia thrived even before the pandemic. Singapore is the world’s tenth largest exporter of creative goods—products from areas like film, art, music, and crafts—generating USD 743 billion in profits and 12.7 million jobs. Thailand and the Philippines are also committed to growing their creative economy, establishing the Thailand Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and filing the Philippines Creative Industries Act.

South Korea may be perceived as an undisputed digital and creative powerhouse, with resounding success in their creative industry and exports. The success is supercharged by the developments of creative content exports, as well as Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation (CCEIs) by various ministries and government agencies, such as the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) and Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning.

Many South Korean creatives are looking at Southeast Asia with great interest to target underserved markets. These include the teams of DevUnlimit, R.O.C.K and AppMedia. The top three opportunities they see for their businesses are connected fitness, tech wearables, and sustainable creative spaces.

Connected fitness

Globally, fitness tech startups raised a record-setting USD 2.3 billion in 2020, an increase of over 30% year-over-year. Digital fitness and wellness companies saw a surge in demand from businesses and individuals alike during the pandemic. Peloton, an exercise equipment and media company, saw its Q4 2020 sales nearly triple, while Mirror, which developed an interactive home gym setup, generated USD 170 million in revenue for 2020 and was acquired by Lululemon for USD 500 million.

Fitness is increasingly digitized and gamified, especially during the pandemic, and it motivates individuals trapped in their homes to work out using stimulating presentations and instantaneous engagement. DevUnlimit developed the Sparky platform in South Korea, empowering users to start their workout with a web camera and any screen. Within the comfort of the user’s own home, Sparky creates a stress-free workout environment with a variety of unique sessions and trainers to choose from. These include yoga, Zumba, and even full dance tutorials with real-time instructions and interactions with your favorite trainers.

The AI behind Sparky captures the body movements of users to issue scores. This allows users to gain instant feedback when they work out and provides motivation to reach or maintain a high score. DevUnlimit marketing manager Emilie Saunier highlights “the developments by Sparky in 3D avatars that follow users’ movements in real time is also a huge opportunity for AI in fitness and gaming,” and investors are interested in this metaverse space in the creative economy.

Sparky is erasing physical and geographical boundaries, and fitness creatives can now leverage this platform to reach, manage, and engage with their students or clients at greater scale. The Southeast Asia market is largely underserved in the digital and connected fitness space, and DevUnlimit identified this region as a key component of their global expansion plans. By providing more English-language workout videos, and working with strategic investors that have strong experience in gamification and fitness influencer networks, DevUnlimit expects to reach more consumers in new markets.

Tech wearables

The first computer mouse was created by Douglas Engelbart in 1964, made from a wooden shell and two metal balls attached below. Since then, the handheld hardware input device has come a long way in terms of product innovation. Now, many tech companies like Logitech, Razer, and Microsoft have produced their own mice with advanced features like wireless connection, multi-device syncing and eight-button setups with customizable commands. However, these are only incremental developments, not radical innovations.

Korean tech startup R.O.C.K has reimagined a uniquely shaped mouse that can be worn and controlled on the user’s finger. The ring-shaped wearable mouse has a tactile and gyro sensor that allows users to control their screen without the mouse needing to be on any surface. This unlocks another level of productivity and creativity, according to the CEO of R.O.C.K, David Kim.

Kim is confident about the future of the ring-shaped wearable mouse, explaining that “wearable ring devices will be one of the game-changers after smartphones.” Kim also emphasized the wearable laser pointer market will be worth more than USD 5 billion next year, doubling the market size of computer mice, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10%, according to a report by the Korea Trade Promotion Corporation, or KOTRA.

The applications of a wearable mouse are multifold and fit different sectors, including gaming, healthcare, and consumer hardware and accessories. R.O.C.K spotted an opportunity in Southeast Asia, a region that is leapfrogging some developed economies in terms of technological developments and adoption. Kim believes that Asia’s gaming market will be R.O.C.K’s strategic focus. With six out of ten Asian gaming markets being in Southeast Asia, this region is currently a priority for the startup. R.O.C.K has also begun overtures into the healthcare industry, and has been in discussions with pharmaceutical and health devices companies to develop a healthcare ring to retrieve real-time patient data, such as blood pressure.

The hardware device that boosted productivity and creativity is now ready for a radical innovation and broad application across sectors.

Sustainable creative spaces

Sustainability in creative industries is a key driver of innovation. Before the pandemic, the creative economy was predicted to account for up to 10% of global GDP by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected creative industries worldwide, shaving off 20%–40% from revenue across different economies, possibly resulting in 10 million job cuts for creative workers globally.

The ability to tap into new revenue streams through digital platforms and outlets allows creatives to build resilience, especially against the pandemic. Digital platforms and outlets reconnect communities even at times when COVID-19 restrictions are imposed. At the same time, by unlocking a globally connected digital market, creatives are now able to share and commercialize their creative assets worldwide in a more sustainable manner.

Accelerated digitization and digitalization of publications, education, and the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) industries has enabled stronger resilience and even boosted the reach and scale of creatives and content creators. AppMedia’s CEO, Julius Park, has his eyes set on this tremendous opportunity to empower creatives and content creators through the Appbook, a tool that gives organizations and individuals the means to develop and deliver multimedia digital content and experiences to their audience.

“AppMedia’s motto is to create a fair education environment. AppBook can be downloaded on mobile devices and is free, and content is continuously created for AppBook. For example, AppMedia’s main appbook, Learn Korean For Thai, is very useful for beginners learning Korean. This appbook will be developed for Vietnam and India,” Park said. Currently, AppMedia is working with Korea’s Ministry of Education, Supreme Court, Board of Audit and Inspection, selected institutes of higher education, and the Korea International Art Fair (KIAF).

Aligned with the promotion of digital education and advancement of United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 4, which states, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” companies such as AppMedia assume a crucial role in empowering creatives and content creators, enabling widespread access to educational, informational, and recreational materials.

More companies such as South Korea’s DevUnlimit, R.O.C.K, and AppMedia will come to shape the ways creative industries operate at a global level.

Connected fitness serves our interests to stay fit and well physically and mentally. Tech wearables will change the way we interact with the digital world, including the metaverse. Sustainable creative spaces will ensure inclusion and resilience in the creative economy. With a globally connected digital economy, the possibilities are endless.

Quest Ventures is a Singapore-based venture capital firm that boasts a portfolio of more than 90 companies based across Asia and has strong relationships with many community partners across Asia’s ecosystem.

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