S'pore edtech firm trialling in Africa, edible cutlery producer among winners in start-up competition

Mr Deevak Premdas (left) and Mr Edwin Ho co-founded edtech start-up Edsy Bitsy. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DEEVAK PREMDAS

SINGAPORE - Far-flung Kenya, Uganda and South Africa do not usually come to mind as test beds for a Singaporean start-up.

But local edtech start-up Edsy Bitsy saw opportunity in Africa, where poor Internet connectivity makes remote learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic unviable.

"As the entrepreneurs of a lean start-up, we want to validate our product where problems we address hurt the most," said co-founder Edwin Ho, 29.

Mr Ho and co-founder Deevak Premdas, 26, approached teachers and principals in those three countries to offer a mobile app that lets teachers design interactive yet resource-efficient digital lessons, attracting around 350 users, mostly in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

The app requires up to 200 times less memory and 100 times less data than Web-based digital learning software, while encouraging students to engage with lessons by recording their verbal responses to quizzes.

"Our software is built with an offline-first approach, where data such as images are stored locally in the device after download, instead of downloading it from an external server every time the data is accessed," said Mr Ho.

"We had parents in Africa tell us that they have unlimited connectivity at work, but not at home.

"They'd go to work to load lessons and quizzes for the day to bring home for their children, uploading their children's answers the next day."

The team also includes Indonesians Charlene Chang, 15, and Catherina Limanto, 16, who had learnt of Edsy Bitsy and e-mailed the founders asking to join the competition team.

Lauded for its ambition, impact and innovation, Edsy Bitsy's pitch came in third out of 11 start-ups in the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Impact Start-up Challenge Grand Finale on Wednesday (Oct 13).

Strong Silvers, a marketing agency that targets seniors, clinched the top prize of $10,000, while edible cutlery producer Crunch Cutlery came in second, receiving $5,000.

Third-placed Edsy Bitsy received $2,000.

SUSS said the prizes would help winners kick-start their journey to make an impact with their start-ups.

The competition is supported by DBS Foundation, which provides capacity building programmes and access to its network and social enterprise community.

Business skills development and market access are ways that the foundation can support the winners, said competition judge and head of DBS Foundation Claire Wong.

"We see how we can complement start-ups to develop skills by leveraging DBS Foundation's relationship with DBS," Ms Wong told The Straits Times.

For instance, start-ups could be partnered with staff from the bank's human resources or small and medium-enterprise team to develop relevant skills.

The foundation can help budding start-ups find potential partners as well, she added.

The Impact Start-up Challenge Grand Finale brings together the top teams from previous impact start-up competitions organised by SUSS.

Another contestant was FlashBites, which aims to reduce food waste by selling leftover food at discounted prices.

A customer (left) exchanging a Flashbites coupon for leftover food at a stall in Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre. PHOTO: FLASHBITES

Co-founder and chief executive Kusala Gn, 23, said that although similar platforms exist, FlashBites will offer a unique pay-it-forward function on its app that is slated to launch next year, allowing users to pay for a discounted meal for a needy family.

She added that the company has already partnered with Kim Keat Palm Food Centre in Toa Payoh as a pilot test, with more than 130 subscribers purchasing leftover food via the platform since January.

The other judges were Quest Ventures partner Jeffrey Seah; Mr Kevin Moon, head of private investments at Lonsdale Capital; and Investigate VC co-founder Mikael Krogh.

Said Mr Seah: "Impact businesses do good in solving a problem and do well financially."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.