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Vivek Kumar

Here's why these hot new startup ideas won

BY VIVEK KUMAR

Not to say they've won in real life, but they did win the Startup Weekend Singapore hackathon at Google last month.

So why did they emerge top winners pitching to a stellar panel of VCs, incubators, and leaders from public and private sectors who've been closely involved in the startup scene? 

As one of the judges at the Startup Weekend Singapore at Google last month, I thought it would be very difficult to choose the winners from the 21 outstanding presentations after 54 hours of a well-mentored hackathon.

Well, there was indeed blood on the floor in the judges' room. But to my surprise, it was clear to all of us why some of the ideas won.

First, revenue on the table. 
Startup ideas need to have a clearly defined, niche market. Take the virtual co-working platform for designers as an example. It wouldn't attract the average Joe on the street, or me. So no, it wouldn't have the Facebook or Carousell kind of appeal. 

But it would sell to designers who are fed up with the existing choices (or lack of any). It seems like an idea which would make a potential customer put money on the table the moment they hear there is a solution. With VC winters reportedly continuing, this may matter even outside of the competition.

Second, solving a social problem.
Jack Ma said at Davos this year that he's keen on developing an idea if it solves a social problem. 

Quite a few ideas caught our imagination during the pitch. They had a reason to exist beyond their profitability.

But the one that lingered on was an idea to do something about the rising divorce & break-up rates in a time-deprived, affluent society like ours.

How about a conceirge service to help the busy jet-setting executive plan his weekend with his wife or girlfriend? Without telling her of course, but ensuring you'd be able to create sweet memories together which would last a sure-to-come-one-day fight. And that too after you've just come back from a red-eye flight?

Men are perhaps less imaginative when it comes to planning weekends, and this service appealed to the folks from Mars.

Third, passion AND resourcefulness.
If you are the founder, you need to truly believe in your idea. And you'd go to any length to bring it to life. To their credit, many teams tried doing it very well at the Startup Weekend. They brought in interesting exhibits, did street surveys on their ideas, and truly made the 54 hours work for them. 

One team got hold of a gaming device and re-purposed it to create a hardware accessory to help those affected by paralysis or ALS. With the device on, they could articulate their needs through their blinking. Hardware startups don't often start being the favorites, but passion has a way to leave its mark.

Although catering to a smaller market, it scored with its accurate functionality and appeal.

Well, the excitement of the hot new ideas did keep us up till late. The competition was supposed to end at 8pm but went on till 10:30pm on a Sunday night. Kudos to the organisers, the participating teams, and the mentors for making the Startup Weekend Singapore 2017 such a massive win for everyone!

I learnt a lot personally. And it is helping us at NTUC U Startup sharpen our thoughts on how to support the startup community in Singapore solve some of the toughest challenges humanity and our society face.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Vivek Kumar

Vivek Kumar

Vivek is Director of U Associate & U Future Leaders programmes, National Trades Union Congress. He is the Honorary Chairman of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in Asia-Pacific and keynote speaker at industry conferences around the region.

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