The world of shopaholics (aka hand-choppers) was filled with glee and excitements from Singles’ Day extravaganza this weekend. Instead of joining the shopping spree, a small group of geeks and techies were having their own non-stop carnival—Techstars Startup Weekend—in downtown Shanghai’s startup center People Squared.
Nearly one hundred of programmers and designers got together to come up with something awesome. After the prolonged 54-hours of hacking and brainstorming, each team took a turn to pitch on stage in an attempt to impress the judges as well as the audience.
China’s mass innovation and mass entrepreneur initiative has caught nearly every walk of the society, and the university campus is no exception. It makes a lot of sense since universities are home to thousands of researchers and incredibly smart students. At the Techstars event, it was nice to see that the effort is seeing some results as college students are gaining momentum not only as a source of startup innovation but also as a powerful target market: these student entrepreneurs are trying to solve their own problems.
The Best Startup Prizes goes to Modbud (知霸知), an Uber for study tips platform developed by a team of students from Fudan University. It is an online crowdsourcing platform for university students to share module-specific resources, like notes, past year papers and tips. Users can post questions and receive on-demand answers from one another. The platform would charge subscription fees for unlimited instant access.
Although the young team still haven’t decided whether they would go further with the project, the experience itself is sure an invaluable lesson for them.
“We didn’t expect to go this far, but we’ve learned a lot from the experience. I would say validation is super important, you can be very passionate about something. But it’s not going to be sustainable if no one is going to pay for it. My lesson from the experience is always ask customers what do you want and then go to work on the product, rather than working on the product first and ask the customers how they like it,” said Cheng Junhua, head of the team.
Two other projects were also dedicated to the emerging college student market. Gochiever is a social platform that helps undergraduate students to achieve their long-term goals in life by connecting common minds, life planners, and mentors. 2dolist is a productivity tool enabling users to manage their plans in a more orderly way. They are trying to target the student market first.
Basketball game scientist Vertime walked away with the Best Innovation startup prize. China’s basketball industry is worth RMB 150 million, consisting of China Basketball Association teams, National Basketball League, schools as well as amateur teams. Vertime helps them to do video editing and tagging through the online platform, helping clients to do video analysis, track player stats, as well as give and get game reports.
The Audience Choice Award went to Remaketory. 41 billion pieces of garment were disposed improperly each year and 95% of them can be reused. Remaketory wants to solve this problem by providing a platform where users can redesign and reconstruct unwanted clothes into new useful items. They go after both individual and business clients.
The winning team will first have to face rivals from the Asia-Pacific region and then move on to winners from other regions worldwide. At Techstars Global Startup Weekend, 15,000 participants will compete in 200 editions similar to the ones in Shanghai. Of all the teams pitched at Techstars, 12% will continue with their startup weekend idea.