Thai social enterprise wins mobile app contest
Thai social enterprise Socialgiver offers consumers special rates from businesses with excess capacity - such as hotels with vacant rooms or restaurants with unfilled dining seats.
Part of the money earned is then donated to charity, which ensures the business receives tax rebates in the kingdom. This business model wowed judges at the second Singtel-Samsung regional mobile app challenge held in Jakarta on Tuesday. It won the top prize of $10,000.
Another app, Otto from Australia, won the Samsung Innovation award as it works best with the South Korean company's products. It is an always-listening, voice-controlled mobile app that enables drivers to safely and intuitively manage calls and texts while driving.
Socialgiver and Otto were among 14 start-ups to get to the finals. Both teams will have the opportunity to market their apps to Singtel's footprint of more than half a billion mobile customers across Asia, Australia and Africa. Samsung will also give them prime product placement on its content and services platforms.
Chief judge of the competition, Mr Edgar Hardless, said that Socialgiver was chosen because it provided a neat solution to a local problem in Thailand.
"This year's competition saw very good entries, they were not clones of start-ups elsewhere. They were original and tackled local problems. This is what we want to see," he told The Straits Times. He is also the chief executive of Singtel Innov8, the telco's venture unit.
Mr Mark Chong, Singtel's chief executive for International, said that the challenge provides a platform "to encourage talented app developers to grow their companies and bring their innovations to market more quickly".
Vanitee raises $3m for regional expansion
Home-grown tech beauty start-up Vanitee raised $3 million last month to expand into the region next year.
The investment came from Japan's leading beauty portal @cosme and serial entrepreneur Ivan Lee, founder of restaurant chain Thai Express.
This brings its total investment to date to $5 million in just six months since it was founded.
Its previous investors were beauty distributor Luxasia and angel investor Robert Yap, who runs Asia's leading logistics company YCH.
With Vanitee, consumers can go online to book beauty services like hair care, facials and manicure. They receive instant confirmations from the service providers.
Co-founder Douglas Gan said it will expand into Malaysia early next year and hire more people.
It will also look at strategic acquisitions for faster growth, he said in a media statement.
Mr Lee said he invested in Vanitee because he believed "it will do for the beauty industry what Airbnb and Uber did for the hospitality and transport industries".
Since its founding in May, it has attracted more than 4,700 customers. It has a network of more than 550 verified beauty artists.
Consult doctors from anywhere in the world
Patients who want to see the best doctors sometimes have to queue or even travel to other countries.
Singapore-based start-up Ringmd aims to change this by creating an app that lets patients consult doctors anywhere in the world using mobile devices.
Patients go online at www.ring.md to select a specialist. Once an appointment is confirmed over e-mail, the patient can consult the doctor via video chat or phone.
Founded in 2013, Ringmd has received funding from the National Research Foundation as well as other investors.
It recently raised an undisclosed sum to expand its services to other South-east Asian countries, as well as Pakistan, India, Japan and the United States.
The service is now available on Apple or Android devices. It is also available on the Web.