What you need to know
Check out life-changing online education technology, life-saving IOT solutions, and life-altering animation tools.
This is part two of the Taiwan Startup Stadium Demo Day roundup from the July 12 show at RISE 2018, for part one featuring UChange2, Screea and frmH30, click here.
Revolutionizing Asian ed-tech
Hahow, which means school in Taiwanese and Cantonese, is Taiwan’s biggest online learning platform, having powered up from four co-founders working out of Taipei’s MakerBar a few years ago to a team of 38 in newly entered offices this summer.
The runaway success is driven by Hahow’s co-founder and CEO Arnold Chiang’s sharp eye for a gap in Taiwan’s education tech market and the savvy to exploit it with a unique proposition.
Cutting a somewhat professorial figure himself, Chiang is fluid when it comes to putting down his pitch: “We’re like Udemy, a consumer-to-consumer online learning platform, plus Kickstarter-style crowdfunding, Chiang says, explaining that teachers on the platform first have to pitch who they are, as well as how and what they’re going to teach, before building a course once the requisite number of students have signed up.
“Design and coding is strong because there is an emerging need for a new generation with these skills, but actually we started with extracurricular learning,” Chiang tells The News Lens. “In Asia, students are so used to passive learning and they learn things by social pressure and parental expectation instead of learning who they are and what they’re about, so we try to encourage people to explore more topics.”
Those include off the wall skills like yo-yo mastery, to stage performance, as well as hot issues like blockchain and cryptocurrency trading.
Hahow plans to launch foreign language services in early 2019, but for the time being is looking to expand into Hong Kong, from where it has already received interest from teachers interested in running course without a marketing push.
“We will focus on Chinese as that’s our strength: Chinese IP,” Chiang adds. “We are here for content producers and teachers to digitize their content and to learn what the difference is between promotion in Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
Chiang says that most teachers initially struggle with digitizing their content, but that Hahow offers consultancy and its own studio to help teachers learn the necessary skills.
“Everything changes when you go online – they are used to teaching with a lot of atmosphere and charisma, but online you are facing a camera so our project management and editing and filming team help the teacher carry that across.”
The 29-year-old says that seven out of 10 of the courses on the platform are filmed at home on their smartphones., with the rest enjoying the studio’s lighting and editing service.
Hahow counts about 140,000 registered members, more than half of whom are paying customers, putting down an average of US$50 on each course, and of which more than 25 percent are repeat buyers.
“We are going to make about US$3 million GMV this year,” Chiang told the demo day audience, adding that the company is set to pioneer a new model allowing teachers to offer subscribers one-to-one sessions, and that there are plans to launch a dedicated social network and a service to integrate students with job referrals.
Sounding the right note
Clef Technology comes right out of the heart of the petrochemical powerhouse that fuels Taiwan’s manufacturing economy, the southern metropolis of Kaohsiung.
Clef is also the sole internet of things (IOT) representative among this year’s batch of eight startups traveling to RISE conference 2018 with Taiwan Startup Stadium.
The company provides solutions for businesses large and small to detect potential gas leaks before they occur, sourcing the Clef name from its sensors’ ability to detect minute changes in the sound of pipe vibrations that indicate a problem may be in the pipeline.
Boasting a 98 percent detection rate, Clef offers a one-stop solution for businesses to save money and energy while improving operational efficiency.
Clef CBO and co-founder Rebecca Dong said the pain point is simple: potentially fatal accidents occurring in factories amid a renewed government focus on workplace safety, particularly within semiconductor companies as they handle radon gas.
Clef can have no more compelling a use case than the summer 2014 gas explosions that ripped through Kaohsiung, killing 32 people and injuring several hundred more. At the time, the pipeline constructor CPC Corp. said that the pipes had shown no indication of leaks prior to the explosions.
Globally, Dong and her team suggest that gas leaks cost US$2 billion each year, and there that there is a roughly equivalent value market for detection solutions.
“We can predict the risk of leaks and prevent accidents, and are looking for retail sector and real estate companies to apply our solution in Hong Kong,” Dong told The News Lens, adding that Clef already has partners in Singapore as well as Taiwan.
Clear resolution for angsty animators
Spock (yes, that one) Yao, co-founder and CEO of PiSquare is intimately familiar with the pain of wasting hours and even days waiting to render animations only to find flaws in the final cut.
“Checking and re-checking is an animator’s life,” he smiles – and he should know, he has 18 years in the business.
PiStage, the first game-rendered animation tool in the world, allows animators to output a 4K frame, which conventionally can take more than an hour, in three seconds, or 1,000 times more quickly.
“Sometimes you don’t need to render in such high quality, for example in games interactivity is the key over render quality, Yao explains. “Our solution connects the game engine with the animation tool for realtime feedback – you don’t have to wait or guess, you get the result instantly.”
The technology is the brainchild of PiSquare CTO Alberto Menache, whom Yao describes as a “Hollywood legend” and the pioneer of motion capture technology.
Legend has it that Menache spawned the PiStage tech when faced with the impossible task of finishing Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee’s NHL Guardians project in just three months with only five PCs. “Nobody thought it would be possible but he did it using this method,” Yao says.
Yao maintains PiStage is good enough to produce TV series or webisode animations, not to mention being a godsend for VR developers working in Unreal Engine, who can edit environments in near real time without having to export them.
Yao also said that the platform, which has had 400 downloads since launching in the first quarter, is 90 percent cheaper than classic counterparts, and can save 40 percent on conventional production times.
With a handful of clients already in tow and partners like Disney Imagineering trialing an improved beta version of the product, Yao is hopeful it won’t be long before PiSquare finds the co-investor it needs to provide the missing US$500,000 the company needs to meet its US$2 million funding round.
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The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend RISE 2018.