MOX Batch 4: Lifting the Loneliness of Migratory Millennials

MOX Batch 4: Lifting the Loneliness of Migratory Millennials
Credit: MOX
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Companies from Argentina to South Korea offer mobile millennials reassurance and familiarity.

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MOX, the Taipei-based accelerator that helps mobile startups tap emerging markets, offered an eclectic lineup at its latest demo day, as six teams pitched for investment ranging from US $ 500,000 to US $ 2 million.

The event in Taipei's Huashan 1914 Creative Park was presaged by a typically robust introduction from Jeffrey Huang, chairman of Taiwanese live streaming success story 17 Media , which picked out Israel as a startup ecosystem success story that Taiwan can aim to emulate .

Huang also called attention to how first first offer offerings (ICOs) are challenging venture capital (VC) as a means for startups to attract funding.

"One industry that ICOs disrupt is VCs but if you want to ICO, you'd better lawyer up or put up firewalls up so that you do not get you into trouble," Huang said, adding that as long as they have their hearts in the right place entrepreneurs should "go hard and fast and worry about [consequences] later."

Huang competed a private ICO in early February for his Mithril token, but said that route is off limits to most founders as it requires a network of well-placed people and weighty name recognition to attract sufficient support-in.

Whereas public ICOs are difficult to parse for credibility, accelerators like MOX offers investors peace of mind that the early-stage companies on show have a quality product or service and the network to push it to the next level.

MOX member companies can tap support that includes financing from SOSV, the US$300 million VC fund that oversees MOX, and access to audience that sidesteps the life-sapping expenses involved in acquiring users through Facebook and Google. Founding teams can also tap the advice and knowhow of 270 global mentors.

MOX founder William Bao Bean summed it up: “It doesn’t matter how good your app is – no one will ever see your app or platform unless you pay Google, Facebook or a bunch of Chinese guys [Alibaba, Tencent, etc.]. They charge 20 to 30 cents per app launch, and it’s impossible to make that back in emerging markets.”

SOSV is regularly ranked among the most active seed investors in the world by Crunchbase, the data-driven company analytics service, and 60 percent of the companies in MOX’s previous three batches have either raised money or broken even (or both), with 30 percent closing or about to close US$1-3 million in the last year, according to Bao Bean.

In return for offering up a share of their revenue and equity, MOX companies are provided with up to 150,000 users to help localization and optimization as they enter each of the markets in MOX’s coverage, which spans Southeast Asia, India, Eastern Europe and South America.

Access to that user base comes via MOX’s partnership with global telco GMobi, which provides smartphone ad services, a payment platform, and access to 167 million (up from 130 million last year) smartphone users across South Asia, Southeast Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. Those users are distinguished by the likelihood that they are using low budget phones with limited memory and are conscious of the price of data.

MOX Batch 4

Picking a winner from a 10-minute pitch is always something of a lottery, but RadioCut, co-founded by Argentine Guillermo M. Narvaja had perhaps the most appealing service and a tagline to match: “Netflix for radio.”

Narvaja voiced a common theme of the afternoon, namely the fragmented and migratory nature of millennial life in emerging markets and the isolation this breeds – an isolation that RadioCut offers to ease by sourcing the soothing tones of your hometown radio station, either live or via playback. A 50 percent retention rate for the app's 700,000 monthly active users and the eight hour average time spent per month suggests decent stickiness for an app that on demonstration looked clean and intuitive. RadioCut is seeking US$500,000 as it looks to jump from South America to Asia.

Myanmar-based Goama offered a similarly attractive amalgamation model, sold by its co-founder and CEO Taro Araya as “a highly curated, friction free, all-you-can-eat Netflix of Games.” Goama invites users to pay a low-cost subscription for access to 400 premium games, paid for by the mobile phone credit that every emerging market user will carry, and featuring a 10MB or less feature that will appeal to data-conscious users. Goama is after US$1.5 million to expand its base of 270,000 active users and extend its reach beyond its current six countries in Asia.

India's Dogether was another that played on the idea of migrant workers and students wanting to connect to something familiar in their new homes, this time the idea of finding a group of likeminded people with whom to try out various activities, ranging from cooking to paragliding. India is home to some 300 million such migratory potential users, and co-founder and CEO Hammad Jilani, 24, dwelt on community reviews, safety and verification of hosts as key selling points. While his service already has 500,000 registered users, one fear would be that AirBnB is coming after the experience market, and as Dogether’s reach is currently limited to five cities and 120 hosts, it may struggle to scale and compete. The half a million dollars Jilani is looking for would help.

The idea behind Jakarta-based Oomph is simple – new Indonesian smartphone users are turned off by the Google Play Store or simply do not have the space to operate it. Enter the company’s rewards and recommendations service, tailored to Indonesians and offering news, apps and HTML 5 games. The allure of Indonesia’s massive and as yet largely untapped mobile market of 165 million devices is tantalizing, and the company is looking for US$2 million to expand into Southeast Asia and build on its current 4 million active users.

Whycall, which aims to prevent spam calls by running through them a proprietary algorithmic screening process, provided some eye popping stats on the prevalence of fake or scam calling in the company’s native South Korea and around the region. Whycall’s algorithm is honed on data from 1.5 billion calls and pulls in factors like call length to decide who is likely to be up to no good and offer you the chance to block them. The company is raising US$1.5 million in Series A funding to come to the rescue of hotspot markets like Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey, according to founder and CEO Youngjung Yun.

Data delving

It is interesting to speculate on the data insights these companies and the final batch offering, South Korean ecommerce platform Style Seller, will eventually glean and the stories that data might tell. For example, Goama COO Wayne Kennedy told The News Lens that Myanmar was notable for its focus on homegrown games, whereas Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia and Bangladesh were all comfortable in clamoring for top international games.

Dogether might eventually be able to pick out what region of India is most into adventure sports, or at least hazard a guess, while RadioCut could paint the 1,000 years of radio it has collected into a soundscape that illustrates listening habits across its coverage.

But it is often the most disarmingly simple ideas that have most success, and in aping Google's app store and building a CRM platform on top, Oomph may just have the most enticing balance of growth potential and monetization options that investors crave.

Read Next: Cashing Out: E-Payments Advance in Malaysia, Taiwan & Singapore

TNL Editor: Morley J Weston

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