Winner, winner: Early Stage

These young startups are racing ahead.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

For this week’s “Early Stage,” KrASIA’s writers introduce four companies that, in their own ways, each scored a victory recently.

On Tuesday, Indonesian fisheries e-commerce startup Aruna won the Alipay-NUS Enterprise Social Innovation Challenge. The firm faced off against eight other competitors from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia; its novel business model of connecting Indonesian fishermen directly with buyers pushed it ahead of the other finalists, earning it SGD 60,000 (USD 44,000) in prize money. Aruna says its platform allows fishermen to bump up their selling price by 20%—a significant increase for the 2.7 million individuals involved in the trade, many of whom struggle below the poverty line. As you may expect, Aruna will be putting their cash award toward expanding their operations in Indonesia, hopefully bringing more fishermen on board.

Also in Indonesia, digital payment and point-of-sale platform Cashlez announced that it has raised an undisclosed amount in its Series A round led by Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese trading company that is expanding its business to the construction sector, metal products, and IoT in Indonesia. Cashlez’s existing investor, Mandiri Capital Indonesia, also took part in the investment round. The company will use its fresh funding to develop new products and services, as well as expand its network throughout Indonesia. The platform claims to have more than 3,000 merchants that include restaurants, retail stores, insurance providers, and more.

The lack of resources for startups is an endemic problem in less developed nations, but that, at times, can spark innovative solutions. After receiving an education at Harvard University and cutting her teeth in Silicon Valley, Hla Hla Win founded 360ed in her home country Myanmar. The firm offers educational tools that are sorely needed in a country where the textbooks for young students can be a bit too text-heavy. Using augmented reality accessed through smartphones, 360ed gives students and their parents access to 3D flash cards for the English alphabet, English vocabulary, physics, biology, chemistry, and basic circuit design. The company has already brought its products to Indonesia and the Philippines last year, and has plans to step into Malaysia, Japan, and African nations as well.

Singapore’s StaffAny became one of the ten early stage startups to graduate from The Start’s pre-accelerator program this week. The company offers a platform that manages workforces. By easing access to schedules, timesheets, and other necessary articles, StaffAny is a useful tool for businesses that are chiefly staffed by temporary or part-time workers. Already, several major food and beverage chains in Singapore are using StaffAny, putting the one-year-old firm miles ahead of many startups of the same age.

“Early Stage” is a series where the writers of KrASIA highlight startups that caught our eye for the week, whether they achieved an important milestone, rolled out a truly innovative product, or became embroiled in controversy.