Monday, May 18, 2009

Unconference 2009 – Singapore kinda rocks.

As those who have been following our Twitter or Facebook feeds might know, we recently got invited to a manic meeting of entrepreneurial minds in neighbouring Singapore called Unconference 2009. The entire Foldees team actually hoofed it down from KL over the weekend, and are now thoroughly exhausted, and thoroughly amazed at what an exciting weekend it has been.

The first thing that amazed us was the venue. Much as its name indicates, the Biopolis is a purpose-built bio-research facility. The minute to enter the compound (which is HUGE!), you get the feeling you’ve just walked onto the set of Gattaca (below photo courtesy of Henry Leong).

Here’s my best impression of Ethan Hawke at the ground floor of the Biopolis…


Hmm.. ok. Well, moving on.

The Unconference itself was held at the MATRIX block, and took up a whopping 3 floors! Despite being called an unconference, the event was surprisingly structured, with keynotes, breakout sessions, pitches and of course, the display booths, which is where we were. I think the whole naming thing is just to con us entrepreneurs into coming – which we’re damn glad we did.

Our agenda this weekend? Gain a foothold into Singapore, and launch @ddress. Here are a few shots of our booth, which consisted of two buntings…


…a greeting card stand with some of your ol favourites, and a plug to our contest!


And the smallest cocktail table EVER, where were were showcasing the @ddress function. We made our table a little bit less corporatey with our lime green tablecloth.


Also, we were giving out these wicked customisable stickers… Here’s one we gave to our neighbouring booth, fellow Malaysian startup,


In a nutshell, we were swamped! There were at least 4 people talking to both myself and Alvin the entire time, and the general consensus was that we needed to move into Singapore, both in terms of designers to recruit, and cards to sell! Despite totally ignoring the card stand (which we were incidentally selling cards at S$4.00 a pop), we sold a ton of cards as well!

We also made some very important contacts, for whom we will be working out some very interesting collaborations in the coming months, which we are unreasonably excited about!

If there was one key thing we took away from Unconference 2009, it is that us Malaysians could learn a thing or two from our Singaporean counterparts.

First, the organisers, e27, did an amazing job of not only organising this conference, but getting bigshots from Cisco, Google, SalesForce and Skype to come down and share their insights. This is above and beyond anything I’ve seen in KL, and great both in terms of exposure and education for us. Kudos to Mohan and the rest of his team.

Tragically, they actually made a loss on the event, due to a last minute cut in budget from a sponsor. So to those who didn’t want to shell out S$ for your tickets, shame on you (unless you were one of the awesome volunteers! Thanks Niyi for providing us loose change when we ran out!)

Also, the other startups were just jaw-dropping. From what we’ve seen, Singapore has a much more vibrant scene than our own, with loads of awesome projects, mostly from people so young it makes the Foldees team look like a coupla grumpy old men in an old pub talking about the good ol days. These guys have built up some fantastic products with minimal funding, while studying for their university exams! It’s absolutely amazing!

We’re gonna cover these guys instead of the more prominent ones that went for the pitch, since they’ve probably been covered enough in places like this. Rest assured that the pitches were almost uniformly excellent, but what I want to tell you about were the smaller startups that were no less amazing.

One such example is, a startup created by some very young people that is basically a social-media enabled jobsite.


How they differentiate themselves is through providing job-hunters with more ways to convince potential employers (integration with LinkedIn, video and music file linking), and employers with more information by which to make educated choices in terms of who they want to hire.

On top of designing this amazing site, one of the girls, Shuyan also has a wicked design for a wallet, which I wanted the moment I saw it.


And now, I’ve GOT IT! Thank you shuyan for SMS-ing me the details of where to get it after the event. Much much appreciated!


Another really cool startup we saw was, which acts as a sort of online version of a street-side portrait sketcher, except that they use vectors instead of pencils and a pad.image

They also offer those same vectorizing services at 25 photo outlets in Singapore! Yes, we’re already in talks with them about distribution of Foldees cards at those same outlets :) Also, if you’re curious, the name of the site was created specifically to make you snigger like you just did 5 seconds ago.


Further down the hall, were a bunch of really enthusiastic er… kids, led by this efferverscent Chinese guy named Casper. Yes, he was certainly friendly, coming by our booth 4 times to take the “I WISH YOU” Stickers. The first one I wrote for him said “I WISH YOU WOULD PLAY GAMES WITH ME” because that’s what Casper does, with GameMo, a company that specialises in Mobile gaming.

What’s really interesting about GameMo is that they offer both the option of Ad-supported free gaming, as well as pay-to-play, an option that most providers stay away from. This gives users the flexibility of Try-before-you-buy, which isn’t available at the moment.


Another really cool startup (albeit without a profit model) was, which can grab music from ANY site, and allow you to forever drag it into your own customised playlist, that you can share with anybody. HOW COOL IS THAT!?


The only problem with the site is no clear business model. Yup, it’s run by a bunch of really idealistic people, and we here at Foldees absolutely understand that. However, in the long run, you still need some cash, so you guys should probably hook up with these guys… cos they have a pretty good business model.


Lastly, but not leastly (if there’s such a word, which according to Blogger, there isn’t), is Foliohouse, ironically the first startup we met since they were our neighbours. The site’s not up yet, but we got a sneak peek at it.

Doesn’t it kinda look like Foldees except more orange? That’s cos the concept is very similar to our own! It’s called an Artist Incubation Project, and aims to use contests and events to recruit a bunch of designers to their site, and match those artists to corporate work (this is the part that’s not so much like us). We can’t wait!


Anyways, that was what we remembered from Unconference2009, which is probably at least in part due to the fact that we were standing and talking the whole day on 3 hours of sleep. To those startups that we didn’t feature, please don’t get mad at us. We need to rest too, so we can’t cover everybody :)

Speaking of which, we’re going to catch up on some now.

Ok Singapore, Good night from KL.


Stephen said...

Some awesome ideas there. Exciting stuff.

Sneha said...


Thanks for the writeup. I fffound ffffoundtape to be cool too along with elevyn, evolitera and iTwinn. We are glad you came for the event and most importantly had fun!:)

chak said...

We always have fun, Sneha!

Painful, teary-eyed, utterly exhausting fun :)

Meng Weng Wong said...

Glad you guys had a good time, and congrats! Took a picture of your booth:


Henry Leong said...

Why are you using my photo without writing to me and my permission?

chak said...

Hi Henry,

Assume you're talking about the one image we didn't take. Sorry about that... it was from a Google image search. We can take it down if you like