Start Singapore: Start-up raises $42m to remove space junk

Mr Chau (left), Neeuro's co-founder, said that while a person is wearing the headband and playing games, it will measure his cognitive performance and help him to achieve better mind wellness.
Health and wellness portal Active Ager Asia will allow users of fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone to sync their data on the portal. Mr Kong, the portal’s founder, said he hopes to influence people who are 45 years old and above to lead a more healthy lifestyle. PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr Chau (above), Neeuro’s co-founder, said that while a person is wearing the headband and playing games, it will measure his cognitive performance and help him to achieve better mind wellness.
Mr Chau (above), Neeuro’s co-founder, said that while a person is wearing the headband and playing games, it will measure his cognitive performance and help him to achieve better mind wellness. PHOTO: ST FILE

Start-up raises $42m to remove space junk

A Singapore-based start-up has its sights set off the planet. Astroscale has just raised US$30 million (S$41.5 million) to develop technologies for the removal of potentially lethal space junk.

The investors were Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a public-private partnership aimed at promoting innovation, and Japanese venture capital fund Jafco.

Later this year, it will launch a satellite to map pieces of debris less than a millimetre in size so that space agencies and private firms can use the information to protect their equipment.

Founder and chief executive Nobu Okada also said that in 2018, it will launch a special adhesive-smeared spacecraft designed to stick onto debris and move it out of harm's way.

Experts estimate there are roughly 150 million pieces of debris whizzing around Earth at about 8km per second, 20 times faster than a bullet. This means that even tiny fragments are potentially lethal to astronauts and can cause damage to satellites.

Last year, Astroscale opened a research and development centre in Japan to work with research institutions there.

The start-up was founded in 2013 here by Singapore-based Mr Okada, who had previously worked with consulting giant McKinsey and Company.

He regards Singapore as "neutral" for his business because the space industry is dominated by the United States, Russia and China. If he had to remove space debris left by US satellites, a Singapore-based company would be more acceptable.


Mind-training headband

Local start-up Neeuro aims to raise US$50,000 (S$69,107) on American crowdfunding site Indiegogo to make a special headband that can be used to train the mind. To date, it has raised nearly US$30,000 from about 200 backers.

The headband, called Neeuro Senzeband, comes with a mobile app called Neeuro Memorie, which is a collection of 15 games.

Designed by neuroscientists, game developers and data scientists, the games are meant to stimulate and strengthen the mind. The headband measures the brainwaves when a user plays the games on their mobile device.

In a statement, co-founder Eddie Chau said: "Basically, while you are playing the fun games, Senzeband will measure your cognitive performance and help you to achieve better mind wellness."

When a user plays a game, the Senzeband's special software maps the various cognitive functions such as memory, attention and spatial skills.

According to its campaign material posted on Indiegogo, Senzeband hopes to improve long- and short-term memory and help people to concentrate on what they are doing.

Other skills it hopes to develop among its users are multitasking, decision making, and spatial skills so people can read maps so that they can travel or move around.

Neeuro was founded two years ago by Mr Chau and Dr Alvin Chan, both serial entrepreneurs. Mr Chau founded cyber security company e-Cop in 2000, which was later acquired by security firm Certis Cisco. He and Dr Chan later co-founded social media monitoring service Brandtology, which was sold to Australian firm Media Monitors in 2011.


Six-figure sum raised for health portal's expansion

A health and wellness portal called Active Ager Asia has raised a six-figure sum to fund its business expansion. The investments were led by angel investors, Dr Khor Chin Kee, former chief executive of Parkway Shenton Group, and Mr Paddy Tan, chief executive of technology firm, BSTC.

Active Ager Asia, which started as an online health magazine two years ago, has expanded into a portal to help people track their fitness levels.

Founder Aaron Kong said that users of fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone will be able to sync their data on the portal.

"So users can see how many steps they have taken, the distance walked and calories burnt."

Earlier this week, data from the mobile fitness tracker Moves was linked to activeager.asia. In the next few weeks, data from Fitbit, Jawbone and other fitness trackers will be able to sync to the platform. "We want to influence... people who are 45 years old and above and try to get them to lead a more healthy lifestyle."

The platform is open to all for free. However, there will be a subscription service starting from $36 a year, where subscribers will be able to participate in fitness challenges as well as get other benefits like merchant discounts.

Grace Chng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'StartSingapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe