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500 Southeast Asia

Durians Daily #90: Vokal’s micro-messaging app praised by PM Modi; Transcelestial featured on CNBC for its laser tech development; NewCampus accelerates digital learning as jobseekers remain competitive

Praised and recognized

  • In one of his latest “Mann Ki Baat” episodes, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised various local apps that won the government’s recently concluded AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge, one of which is Koo, the microblogging platform created by 500-backed Vokal.
  • The country-wide challenge saw participation from nearly 7,000 tech entrepreneurs and startups across India.
  • Koo was launched in March and only available in four Indian languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.
Credit: YourStory
  • The app allows users to interact with each other through 400 characters of text or 1-minute short audio or video “Koos.” They can also follow other users, send direct messages, and use hyper-local hashtags on the app.
  • Creators of the app, Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka, told YourStory that Koo was created with the locals in mind.
  • As of now, Koo counts celebrities, politicians, and sports personalities as users. They include Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka Dr. CN Ashwathnarayan, Union Minister Ravishankar Prasad, Indian cricketers Anil Kumble and Javagal Shrinath, and spiritual teacher Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev.
  • “We’re very excited about being one of the winners of the AatmaNirbhar App Challenge. PM Modi is giving startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs a very good platform to showcase their creativity, and we’re grateful for this opportunity. We look forward to taking Koo to a wider India that wants to connect with people in their mother tongue,” Aprameya said.
  • To know more about Koo, visit the official website here.

The future of connectivity

  • 500-backed Transcelestial’s mission is to provide an affordable and faster alternative to traditional cellular and internet connectivity.
  • The Singapore-based company makes Centauri, a device that uses laser communication to create a wireless distribution network between buildings, traditional cell towers, street-level poles, and other physical infrastructure.
  • Compactly shaped like a shoebox, it weighs less than 3kg.
Credit: CNBC
  • “When you look at the world right now, nearly half of the world is still unconnected, and we’re talking about no internet services, not even basic cellular connectivity,” Rohit Jha, co-founder and CEO, told CNBC.
  • As the 5G frontier draws near, Rohit believes they will play a major role in the process as Centauri is able to speed up deployment by “six to eight months, or even a year.”
  • This vision helped Transcelestial secure US$9.6 million in a Series A round in July.

Upskilling is key

  • As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to limit physical interactions, upskilling has taken its place in the virtual world.
  • For many, this presents an opportune time to upskill themselves from the comfort of their own homes.
  • 500-backed NewCampus, which is an education and technology company focusing on empowering working professionals with in-demand knowledge, is witnessing a spike for its online courses.
  • Co-founder Will Fan told China Daily that in the three months after the pandemic broke out, NewCampus has expanded to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Jakarta, Bangkok, and South Korea.
  • With the focus on a “learning mindset”, NewCampus invites experts from global companies to speak at “power lunches”.
Credit: Will Fan
  • The Power Lunch Series, capped at only 15 participants in an hour-long session, allows for quick-fire Q&A rounds in a small-group setting. Past speakers include PayPal’s senior director of innovation, Michael Todasco.
  • There’s also the Power Ladies Breakfast series. Just like Power Lunch, this is a series of breakfast talks and group mentoring sessions with experienced female industry leaders, influencers and game-changers over Zoom, capped at 15 pax. Past speakers include Ayumi Nakajima, Country Manager, SEA & India at Pinterest, and Verdayne Nunis, Chief of Staff at Microsoft.

Missed out the last Durians Daily? Go here to check it out.

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500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. In Southeast Asia, 500 Startups invests through the pioneering 500 Durians family of funds. The 500 Durians funds have backed over 200 companies across multiple sectors from internet to consumer to deep technology. It continues to connect founders with capital, expertise and powerful regional and global networks to help them succeed.

This post is intended solely for general informational or educational purposes only. 500 Startups Management Company, L.L.C. and its affiliates (collectively “500 Startups”) makes no representation as to the accuracy or information in this post and while reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the information herein is accurate and up-to-date, no liability can be accepted for any error or omissions. All third party links in this post have not been independently verified by 500 Startups and the inclusion of such links should not be interpreted as an endorsement or confirmation of the content within. Information about portfolio companies’ markets, competitors, performance, and fundraising has been provided by those companies’ founders and has not been independently verified. Under no circumstances should any content in this post be construed as investment, legal, tax or accounting advice by 500 Startups, or an offer to provide any investment advisory service with regard to securities by 500 Startups. No content or information in this post should be construed as an offer to sell or solicitation of interest to purchase any securities advised by 500 Startups. Prospective investors considering an investment into any 500 Startups fund should not consider or construe this content as fund marketing material. The views expressed herein are as at the date of this post and are subject to change without notice. One or more 500 Startups fund may have a financial interest in one or more of the companies discussed.

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