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Women startups shine this International Women’s Day

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By Kavita Bajeli-Datt

Today is International Women’s Day and start-ups are the flavour of the season. When both combine, we get women who are impressively standing tall among a clutter of new-age growth drivers.

Filtering through the cliched slogans that resonate around International Women’s Day on March 8 are some of the shining stars who have made a noticeable impact — not through hollow words but with hard work to build businesses by thinking differently.

Some of these young women like Sanna Vohra, Aditi Awasthy, Shabnam Aggarwal and Ambika Sharma have scripted success stories in a short period of time.

Sanna Vohra was just 18 and studying at Brown University, when she was smitten by the idea of starting a business. And it was just last year, at 24, that she saw an opportunity in the online wedding industry and decided to turn her dream into a reality by launching Indear.in- a shopping portal for weddings.

For Vohra, who has grown up all over Asia — in India, Singapore and the Philippines, a chance chat with her friend led to the birth of her dream.

“I was working at Morgan Stanley in New York and was in Mumbai for a week in January 2014, when a good friend was planning her sister’s wedding. To give me a sense of the location, her outfits, decor ideas, and the invitations, my friend had to go through multiple email threads, WhatsApp groups, and a word document with pictures pasted onto it,” Vohra told this correspondent.

“I went back to my job but continued doing research, and realized that no comprehensive tool existed. A few months later when I was 23, I moved to India and Indear was born: an end-to-end inspiration, planning, and shopping portal for Indian weddings,” said Vohra, who is one of the youngest women founders and CEOs in the Indian start up ecosystem.

A recent report by the Centre of Entrepreneurship (CE) threw up interesting aspects about women entrepreneurs. The report concluded that women are better in taking calculated risks, less prone to being over-confident, seek consensus of views and show sensitivity to needs of clients.

If Vohra started alone, so did Aditi Awasthy, founder and CEO of Embibe. Aditi’s business is all about helping students prepare for competitive examinations. The competitive world has climbed up the toughness ladder because of the sheer size of population jostling for better career options.

She eases the process a bit, said Awasthy, who founded Embibe when she was 30 years old. Awasthy, now 34, feels that it is a wrong question to ask whether women could be good entrepreneurs.

“There are successful entrepreneurs and failed entrepreneurs who may become successful later. Some of them happen to be women,” she said. “I think at times women disadvantage themselves by perceiving life a bit too much through a gender bias during the early years,” said Awasthy, an MBA from the University of Chicago.

“I don’t have children yet so I can’t say what impact that would have for me personally but I have seen situations where women have been treated unfairly specially in corporate settings. Things are changing though,” she said.

Shabnam Aggarwal, founder CEO of Kleverkid.in, also feels that the mindset about women entrepreneurs is changing, albeit slowly.

The 30-year-old, who holds a Bachelors degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, launched her venture in 2014 as she was passionate about children and their education.

“It was really difficult initially. I had to go through a lot of rejection and when you hear ‘no’ from everywhere, trust me it can be emotionally exhausting as well as tiring. The Indian startup space is getting hotter but many ventures are also failing to survive,” she said.

Ambika Sharma, 37, founded Pulp Strategy Communications, an award-winning agency, with an aim to provide marketing technological solutions to the industry giants.

Her venture is barely five years old but has already been recognised as India’s youngest and most awarded agency with an impressive list of clients like Google, Yahoo India, Nokia, Philips and Renault.

“Being a startup is more about mental strength and confidence than about anything else. For me, the process of raising the bar has just begun,” Sharma said.

When not dealing with complex market issues, Ambika unwinds with her passion for bikes. Her stable has a Suzuki GSX-R1000 and a Harley Davidson Road King.

“Challenges have been and will continue to be in the path just as the fact that they shall be overcome,” said this serial entrepreneur, who has an experience of more than 17 years and feels that technology has made it easy for a person to be a “perfect multi-tasker”. (IANS)

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Internet Of Things Needs World Market Leaders, Interest Turns to Startups

Google and Microsoft dominate markets worldwide

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An employee displays ASUS’s new computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Computex will run in Taipei from June 5 to 9. VOA
An employee displays ASUS’s new computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Computex will run in Taipei from June 5 to 9. VOA

A surge in participation by startup companies this week, at a highlight of Asia’s biggest annual tech event, shows an increased reliance on young entrepreneurs and leaders to come with the IT industry’s strongest ideas for connected devices and artificial intelligence.

The InnoVEX segment of Taipei Computex 2018 brought together 388 startups, a term usually defined as founder-owned firms of three to five years old. That number is a jump from 272 at the same event a year ago. Venture capitalists, including at least one with half a billion dollars in investment funds, evaluated them one-on-one and at formal pitching events.

Startups are catching attention as inventors of Internet-of-things technology because there’s no market leader yet, said Jamie Lin, founding partner of AppWorks Ventures, a startup accelerator in Taipei. That technology refers to software and hardware that let computers or phones communicate with everyday devices such as cameras and alarm systems.

Some connections run on artificial intelligence, which means computerized processing of the data collected from those devices. That can mean making human-like decisions.

“Computers continue to morph and there are no dominant players in IoT,” Lin said. “That’s why they need startups and that’s what makes the show relevant.”

In software, by contrast, Google and Microsoft dominate markets worldwide. Apple and Samsung, among others, lead in smartphones.

Coinciding with the tech show this week, Lin’s accelerator, another like it and a Japanese venture capital firm are all holding their own events in Taipei this week for startups.

Visitors review new MSI computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018
Visitors review new MSI computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018, VOA

Expanding market

More than 20 billion things will be connected to the internet by 2020, up from 8.4 billion connected last year, market research firm Gartner forecasts. The number will pick up especially as 5G wireless services speed up connections.

By next year, Gartner anticipates, startup firms working with artificial intelligence will overtake Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM in “driving the artificial intelligence economy” for businesses.

Artificial intelligence, also known by its abbreviation AI, will reach a market value of $1.2 trillion per year by 2020 as investment triples between now and then, Forrester Research said.

“There’s a process, which is experimental — error and trial, error and trial – so there’s no one with a ready solution, and AI is so broad that one that can do it all,” said Tracy Tsai, a Gartner research VP in Taipei.

“With AI startups, they say ‘I’m focused, I just do some part of it and I do it well, and I do it attentively,’” she said. “For companies looking for a full solution, if you can show your part works, then they use it.”

Competitors perform speed tests using dry ice to cool hardware at OC World Record Stage 2018 during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.
Competitors perform speed tests using dry ice to cool hardware at OC World Record Stage 2018 during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.VOA

Venture capitalists watching

Venture capital firms at the three-day InnoVEX show Wednesday watched a spread of mostly Asian startups with software and hardware ideas focused largely on connected devices. Healthcare and the management of drones were among the fields that companies said they could help with AI.

The show offered chances for startups to pitch their ideas to venture capital firms and accelerators, which are programs that show young firms how to improve their businesses.

Startup promotion authorities from 13 countries, including France and the Netherlands, also scanned the exhibition hall for Asian firms that might complement their own.

Visitors review Thermaltake's MFC 2 2nd Place MOD during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.
Visitors review Thermaltake’s MFC 2 2nd Place MOD during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018. VOA

“What we care about the most is whether these startups or smaller firms have technology, so if it’s a just a business model only, they aren’t suitable for us,” said Amanda Liu, CEO of the Taiwan government-backed business accelerator StarFab. Her accelerator takes 10 to 15 of every 100 applicants. “They need to have products and their core competence must come from technology.”

Taiwanese firms are good at altering hardware specs, Liu said, and for technology ideal for businesses rather than individual consumers, Liu said. Taiwan positioned itself decades ago as a high-tech hardware manufacturing hub for much of the world.

Qara was one AI-dependent startup at InnoVEX. The 4-year-old South Korean developer with $1 million in venture capital funding uses an AI algorithm to predict the movement of stock and cryptocurrency markets. It has earned revenues of $1.5 million and reports a profit.

“Anyone can see the predictions powered by AI,” said Qara’s global CEO Katie Bomi Son. In terms of accuracy, she said, “Some are from 70, or between 70 to 90. Most of our information [comes] from the machine.”

Also read: Russia’s heavy hand to internet to block messaging app

Qara counts mostly companies as clients but it’s looking for a way to monetize the free app for common users. (VOA)