Hip and Happening Hardware at Startup Launchpad, here in Hong Kong!

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Twice a year one of the halls of the huge Global Sources Electronics trade show is dedicated to startups. Startup Launchpad is Asia’s largest hardware startup trade show focused on consumer and mobile electronics. For eight days around 150 hardware startups from across the globe showcase their products to the impressive 66,000+ buyers the total Global Sources event attracts. During the event a host of speakers take to the podium to discuss trends and share topics that are of interest to the hardware startup community. A great opportunity for newcomers in the field to network and learn from the more seasoned hardware players in the market.

Each startup present will have their own goals and objectives at this trade show depending on the phase of development they are in. For many it’s their first time exhibiting at a trade show like this. For some even the first time to test the global market and get a first hand, face-to -face reaction to what they have spent months, sometimes years creating. We interviewed a cross section of the 150 startup exhibitors to get a taste of what is trending in hardware around the globe this year.

Doros Kyriakoulis is here with Gokey for the first time. The San Francisco based startup produces a key ring device that can provide your mobile phone with a battery boost for up to two hours, extra memory for files, photos, movies etc, a USB cable and a Bluetooth locator which helps your keys find your phone and vice versa. The idea for his key ring device was born in 2013 and has already gone through a very successful Indiegogo crowdfunding process. Kyriakoulis explains that Indiegogo resulted in 20,000 Gokeys sold which are due to be shipped in December. He feels it is now time to take distribution to the next level and exhibiting at Startup Launchpad is his first step towards increasing exposure and gaining sales worldwide. During the 1.5 years of Gokey’s development the team have gone through a steep learning curve resulting in the confidence to increase production numbers and developing a next generation of products for 2017. Considering Gokey’s booth was constantly crowded with interested people (I could hardly get in to ask a few questions) Kyriakoulis tells me it’s very likely they will be back for the show in April to introduce us to some new products

Another first timer to the show is Mystery Vibe from the UK. Although their booth sees many passers by, few seem to stick around to learn more about the product. Why? Perhaps because once they are told that the electronic device they have just picked up to examine is actually a sex toy, the customer retreats with an awkward thank you. The product looks esthetically very friendly and technology-wise it is a real novelty. However in a line-up of smart home appliances, lighting and mobile devices a sex toy is perhaps not what the crowd is expecting. Five years in the making Crescendo is the first product launched by Mystery Vibe and the first bendable vibrator (for men and women) in the world. Six motors and six joints enable it to bend in multiple directions. It is waterproof and can charge wirelessly. An app enables the user to create and control a personal play list of customized vibrations. In view of providing highly advanced technology and personal customization options it fits perfectly in this tradeshow. Jennifer Fung and Gerry Chen who are manning the booth confirm that they’re not getting that much interest from this specific crowd, but from the few that were interested, talks on distributing the product is already on-going!

A few rows down the Nanoleaf stand is busy. The Canadian startup began as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 bringing the most energy efficient LED light bulb in the world to market in 2013. Since then they have been regular exhibitors at Startup Launchpad and other trade shows. This year their booth focuses on their new product Aurora – modular smart lighting. Covering only ten months from ideation to production and distribution this project has moved at a very fast pace. George Chu, one of the now -40 team members of the company explains to me how this system of light panels works. The triangular panels fit together like LEGO pieces and the color of each panel can be individually controlled through an app. It’s a simple system offering customized options for domestic or commercial use. Regulars at this show they have gained trust from visiting distributors. “Buyers don’t take you serious the first time. Now that we have proven to be successful there is a serious interest and trust in what we have to offer”. With around 40 team members spread over Toronto, Hong Kong and Shenzhen offices and a track record of successful product introductions you could argue the company is now almost ready to graduate from startup status and join the more established businesses in the other halls of the Global Sources event. Perhaps that’s where we will find them next year.

Another ‘regular’ is Russian startup Fibrum. The company was here earlier this year in April. “In April the fair was more crowded, but quality is more important than quantity,” says Ivan Ivanitskiy who heads global sales and Marketing virtual & augmented reality. Fibrum focuses on VR (Virtual Reality) in the mobile market and develops both software and hardware for VR and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies. Back in 2013 they found no headsets available that were good enough for the quality of applications they were creating so decided to develop their own. Their goal says Ivanitskiy is to make more people spend more time in VR. On the go, on holiday, in the car etc. Last year at CES 2015 their package was first presented. It got great interest and there was proof that there was a demand for what Fibrum was developing. Within two years their line of products has expanded significantly. Fibrum has released dozens of VR-apps, created the Fibrum Platform where hardware and software developers as well as virtual reality users are united and they developed the first in Russia VR shooter “The Raid”. The company has also produced AR greeting cards and coloring books. Although there are many players in the VR market, Ivanitskiy explains, that what competitors are offering is of much less quality and generally bulky in size. There are software producers and hardware producers but few have skills to develop both. Fibrum uses its presence at Startup Launchpad to reach a more international client base. They have reached out to buyers at various international trade shows and their growing distribution reach across Europe and the USA is proof that their presence here is paying off.

Next trending technology comes from Jarvish. They are at the expo for the first time with their all-in-one smart helmet. 2 years in development the company is all about built-in technology for safety helmets. Their software and services include voice control, calling, high res video recording, an accelerometer and full Internet connectivity all of which can be constantly upgraded. Director PM Ditter Hung tells me that they are purely a technology company and partner with Belgian Helmet maker Lazer to produce a complete smart helmet. This December they will be shipping their first production cycle. Skully who was their main competitor on the scene stopped all business earlier this summer so for the moment Jarvish has the space to dominate this market. “There’s a lot of interest in our product at this trade fair” says Hung. “It’s a great place to get some face to face feedback and learn, test the market’.

From the US to the UK, Canada, Russia and Taiwan, all these five startups develop different hardware for different uses in different markets. So what are the criteria for any business wanting to exhibit at this event? Any hardware startup that is post-prototype phase is welcome at Startup Launchpad. It allows them to test the market with their idea, validate their products, get advice from distributors and retailers and get a good understanding of distribution. For startups already in production phase the event offers the opportunity to meet first class distributors, international resellers, and retailers to reach markets in all parts of the world. For more information on Startup Launchpad go to: www.launchpadhk.com


By Evelien Brinkerink

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