Korea’s braille smartwatch developer Dot wins HackOsaka 2018 pitch competition


See the original story in Japanese.

Osaka City held the annual startup conference HackOsaka 2018 last month, having about 100 participants including investors, entrepreneurs and media from home and abroad. As marking the sixth such event since being started in 2013, their way to introduce trends of global startup ecosystem to entrepreneurs in the Kansai area has become more cultivated.

At the last phase of the event, 10 teams comprising domestic or foreign startups gave pitches. The judges for the pitch competition were as follow:

  • Junko Nishimura (Co-founder, Silver Egg Technology)
  • Oko Davaasuren (Regional Director of South East Asia, Techstars)
  • Oscar Kneppers (Founder, Rockstart [Netherland])
  • Gidi Schmerling (Director of Media Relations, Tel Aviv-Yafo [Israel])
  • Shan Lu (Founding Partner / CEO, LeaguerX)
  • Allen Miner (CEO, Sunbridge / HackOsaka Supervisor)

Peter Rothenberg, Editor-in-Chief in Japan of Tech in Asia / Founder of Best Beer, acted as master of ceremonies.

Gold Prize: Dot (Korea)

Korea-based Dot developed the braille smartwatch under the same name. It enables the visually-impaired to exchange messages or to understand SNS posts as with general smartwatch. Costing only $290 which is much cheaper than conventional braille keyboards costing about $5,000, it will be welcomed as a gift item. The firm succeeded in downsizing of the display on the face utilizing its 30 patents. The firm won the pitch competition at Slush Tokyo 2017 as well.

Dot also developed the braille tablet Dot Pad ($950), as well as the simplified version Dot Mini ($200, for educational use). The firm plans to distribute several million products in India, where there are 10 million visually-impaired people. In addition, the firm started the development of the braille kiosk as a new project targeting Smart City Project in Dubai and had tested it at PyeongChang Olympics. The firm has currently been doing business in the U.S. and China, and is going to enter the Japanese market soon.

Silver Prize: Eye Control (Israel)

It is estimated there are 160 million patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) having muscle and nerve disorder, and the number of ALS cases has been increasing. The Eye Control team knew the communication device for ALS patients costs too much, and had started developing a wearable device which is cheaper and easier to use than the conventional devices.

Eye Control detects motion of the pupil by mounted camera and sends the data to microcomputer to analyze the meanings that a user wants to transmit. The analyzed content is sent to smartphone via BLE and is read out or controlled. One of the biggest features of this system is to eliminate troublesomeness of using a large display. The team was born out from Startupbootcamp in 2011 and was chosen for Next Future Technology award by Israeli tech media Geektime.

Bronze Prize: Carbyne (Israel)

In emergency calls such as 911 in the US as well as 110 (police) and 119 (fire and ambulance) in Japan, some problems have been arising in recent years: long calling time, fake calling, incorrect location, difficulties in prioritization of multiple calls or nonexistence of images to confirm the situation.

Israel-based Carbyne transmits 110 / 119 emergency calls to its own system, and acquires detailed and well-summarized information including location or images to support prompt rescue or appropriate response. It has already been introduced to the Mexican teleco América Móvil, as well as national projects in Honduras and the Philippines.

Bronze Prize: Nature Remo (Japan)

Nature develops an IoT product for smart air-conditioner named Nature Remo. The firm secured more than 22 million yen (about $210,000) through three crowdfunding at Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Makuake. It was chosen for 500 Kobe Accelerator, the acceleration program hosted by Kobe City and 500 startups and had recently fundraised 100 million yen (about $940,000) from Daiwa Corporate Investment.

As its development and production system has been established, the firm started selling the product at Amazon, as well as electronics retail stores such as Bic Camera or Kojima, allowing general users other than early adopters to purchase. Through cooperation with Kansai Electric Power, the firm took part in the verification project of Virtual Power Plant, the energy self-sufficient system as a substitute of power resources in the energy peak time by utilization of internet / sensor technologies and diffusion of distributed type power resources.

Bloodhero (Philippines)

The blood transfusion system, required for accidents or surgery, is generally maintained by blood donation from 1% of the total population and yet blood is in short supply. As a result, there are not a few cases that the family of patients who need blood asks for blood donation of specific blood type in social network services. Bloodhero is a social platform of blood donation to solve these problems.

The Bloodhero users can acquire points for every blood donation and are given status according to stored points; the service prepares various privilege such as free ticket of spa in each status level. In a hospital which introduced Bloodhero, the retention rate of blood donors increased by 23%. The firm aims to reach 50,000 blood donations handling by December of 2018.

Ouireward (France)

One million people experience cancellation or delay of flights annually in the world. In Europe, airplane companies are required to compensate passengers for a delay of more than three hours under EU261 Law. Generally, passengers can receive $700 back in cash at the highest but need to negotiate with airplane companies to claim the right. This negotiation requires troublesome processes; they have to submit many documents and wait for several months, and sometimes their requests are refused.

Ouireward provides a simple online form where users can fill within three minutes and performs the negotiation procedure on behalf of them. It charges 25% of cashback money as intermediate fee. Since its launch six months before, the firm has dealt with customer requests from 37 countries, negotiations with 79 airplane companies and has collected $160,000 cashback. Considering cooperation with airplane companies, the firm aims at $2 million fundraising and tie-up with Japanese airplane / insurance companies.

Yiyuan (China)

Yiyuan offers a skin condition diagnosis service that AI (artificial intelligence) evaluates patients’ face photos taken by the mobile app. Making landmarking on specific spots on the face and diagnosing the conditions before and after the treatment using deep learning, it advices patients whether they are recovering nicely or need additional treatments.

In the future, the firm plans to monetize by providing API (Application Program Interface) or SDK (Software Development Kit) for cosmetic retailers or upgrading the telephone support service. It has been given an angel investment from LeaguerX, the accelerator supported by QF Capital and Tsinghua University.

Travelio (Indonesia)

Travelio, approximating the Airbnb in Indonesia, aims to provide a higher-class service than typical vacation rental services. The firm performs property management on behalf of real estate companies, and provides hotel-level services including cleaning and sheets changing to travelers having demands of long-stay, leisure or business.

The firm currently provides the service in 25 cities within Indonesia and handles 3,000 properties. The ratio of domestic / foreign users is 65 : 35. This service is used on average 4.95 nights per stay and is seemingly popular among long-stay travelers who tend to make much of cost performance. Although many buildings have been constructed recently in Jakarta, not a few properties are left unsold. The service also contributes to monetization of these properties for real estate developers.

BackTech (Japan)

The lower back pain improvement app Pocket Therapist, launched by Japan’s BackTech in 2016, suggests the best exercise plans or introduces good clinics for each user based on the lower back pain evaluation algorithm developed by Graduate School of Medicine and Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University. The firm had raised funds from Cyber Agent.

Lower back pain is one of the common diseases of general workers and is also a severe problem for employers because it causes poor productivity. Pocket Therapist provides an environment where workers can easily receive advice from therapists, and enterprises or insurance companies pay the cost as their employers.

Protectiq (Russia)

Protectiq is a P2P (peer-to-peer) insurance service which applies the sharing economy concept. In developing countries, insurance services have not been improved much and that is one of major causes of death due to tumors or other forms of cancer. This service realized a cheaper charge system by utilizing blockchain technology into the insurance fee payment procedures and clarifying the cashflow.

Specifically, Protectiq users are charged $20 annually, and the insurance fee can be paid by third party donors or companies as a service to society. Targeting young and less wealthy adults in their teens to 40s, the service pays insurance premium of $350,000 at the highest based on users’ declaration.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy