The Fung Global Retail & Technology team attended the Rise 2017 Conference in Hong Kong, which is one of the largest technology conferences in Asia. The three-day event produced by the Web Summit team took place on July 11–13 in Hong Kong and featured keynote presentations and panel discussions with founders, venture capitalists, corporate CEOs and innovation experts, as well as startup pitches from promising new companies. The event floor featured tech startups with applications ranging from e-commerce, to health, to enterprise and Fintech.
Naturally, for an event taking place in Asia, the prevalent focus across the conference agenda was the rise of Asian consumers and businesses, and the opportunities this creates for entrepreneurs and investors. The Rise agenda featured conferences focused on media and marketing, finance, enterprise solutions and startup learning, and speakers such as Gary Vaynerchuk, who drew significant attention this year when he delivered talks and Q&A sessions that engaged an inquisitive audience. Below, we provide the highlights of some of the more interesting sessions we attended over the three days.
The Global CEO of Li & Fung, a sister company of Fung Global Retail & Technology, took to the stage on day 1 together with Logitech President and CEO Bracken Darrell to discuss how traditional corporations can reinvent themselves in a fast-changing digital world. Fung stressed the importance of company culture and values as factors that determine how a business responds to and embraces change—while the culture has to adapt with the times and the business environment, the core set of values are permanent and guide the way in which the company does business. In Li & Fung’s case, the culture and values include being humble, being a family and being entrepreneurs. Darrell discussed how Logitech is reinventing itself from a PC peripherals business to a cloud peripherals business, and echoed the importance of humility as a prerequisite for large corporations to learn from agile tech startups. Darrell continued to emphasize that the advantage companies such as Logitech and Li & Fung have is the scale of their operations and distribution, and suggested that the startup founders in the room take advantage by partnering with big businesses. Fung agreed and emphasized the exciting aspect of being at the threshold of change, and shared Li & Fung’s vision to bring the apparel sourcing industry into the digital world, while improving the lives of one billion people in the supply chain.
The second day of the conference saw a keynote by Min-Liang Tan, the Cofounder and CEO of Razer, which is preparing to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange later this year. Razer was founded as a gaming peripherals company in 2005, and since then has grown into a global business with products in peripherals, gaming systems, software and, most recently, digital currencies. The company’s IPO, which is expected to be in the range of $3–$5 billion, is a significant milestone because Razer is a large tech company which has the US as its biggest market, but has opted to IPO in Asia. From this perspective, it marks the rising standing of Asian markets on the roadmap of global technology businesses. In his presentation, Tan traced the journey of Razer back to the company’s foundation, stressing the importance for a company to stay true to its vision, which, in Razer’s case, is “for gamers by gamers.” Defining the company’s vision with the customer at the center has allowed the company to enter new categories and markets, sometimes even at the disapproval of advisors and investors. Tan also shared that focus, or learning to do something really well and repeating it, and hiring the right people and cultivating the right culture were the cornerstones of Razer’s success in becoming a global business.
Day three of Rise featured a talk by Stephen Wang from Tencent. He gave an overview of the WeChat lifestyle, or how people in China use WeChat to do daily tasks “more conveniently and more elegantly.” According to Wang, WeChat has 877 million daily log-in users, which grew 21% over the past year, and the time spent on WeChat accounts for 30% of all time spent on mobile phones in China—impressive statistics for a product that was launched only seven years ago. WeChat’s product development philosophy is centered on communication, connection and commerce, and as a result, its features allow users to engage with the app multiple times a day for different purposes such as renting a bike, reading an article or calling a friend via a video call. Commerce is a major focus for WeChat, and the development team has launched two products to help businesses engage with WeChat users: social ads, which allow businesses to target users for awareness and acquisition purposes, and cross-border pay, which is a service that the company is launching to international markets. Cross-border pay allows travelling Chinese consumers to pay using WeChat Pay at international locations—consumers are charged in Chinese yuan, while merchants receive a payment in the domestic currency. In this way, WeChat will further facilitate how international retailers capture the spending of the 135 million outbound Chinese travelers.
During the first two days of the event, 66 early-stage companies took the stage to pitch. Zap Zap Math, a Malaysian game-based math-learning platform, was crowned the winner of the pitch contest, gaining an entry into Facebook’s Global Startup program and a place at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. Among the companies with retail applications, we saw the pitches of YOOSourcing and Boutir, while the Japanese startup Laboratic stood out with an artificial intelligence (AI) enterprise application that allows the visualization of employee engagement for freelancers and people working remotely.
Boutir is a Hong Kong-based mobile-commerce platform, which allows offline businesses and entrepreneurs to set up m-commerce stores. One of the company’s selling points is its Snap Sell feature, which lets users list products quickly and easily by taking a picture of the product with a smartphone.
YOOSourcing is a mobile business-to-business (B2B) application for global sourcing, which allows supplier rating and which provides a location-based view of suppliers that is verified by their business licensees and GPS positions. The app also features an instant-messaging capability and supplier profile pages, similar to social media pages.
Laboratic is a Japanese startup, which has developed a way to monitor, analyze and visualize the engagement of remote workers by linking with tools such as Slack and Google Calendar. Although the product is still in beta, it has attracted substantial interest from large corporates, and the beta test ended up including 230 corporate clients and 10,000 users from companies such as Ricoh.
We spent time on the floor meeting with companies and founders. Below, we highlight three companies which we found had innovative new offerings in the world of retail and e-commerce.
Bespokify and Isabella Wren: Bespokify is a platform that allows business users to create bespoke apparel patterns instantly. The technology works with input measurements and 3D body scans to create fully custom patterns for products ranging from swimsuits to dresses. The Bespokify technology was showcased together with designer label Isabella Wren, which offers customizable womenswear apparel, and recently launched an e-commerce offering.
eFanswer is a platform that helps celebrities monetize their influence. The solution is a community made up of fans where they can ask their favorite celebrities up to three questions a week. Celebrities answer, and the most interesting questions and answers are then packaged as social media and print content. The platform already features a number of prominent athletes as well as the current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, himself.
ShopRunBack is a European reverse logistics solution for e-commerce businesses. Part of the solution is a consumer app that allows users who wish to return a product to schedule a pickup time and input an address for their return. In addition, the company operates drop-off points and lockers for those who wish to return products in-person at a convenient location. The company is based in France and is already working with womenswear retailer Mango.