Pixaworks Creative announced the official launch of StartupHouse, an incubator programme that aims to bring the startup culture of Silicon Valley to the Klang Valley. This involves bringing five teams together to live under a single roof for three months and getting them to build apps.
Some 12 individuals are involved with the project, and are being coached by five mentors from various fields who put their expertise at the disposal of the teams. These mentors drop in on the luxury condo that houses the teams to guide them on what makes a viable product; as well as bringing access to various technologies like GPS tracking.
The initial selection took place late last year when Pixaworks opened itself to online submissions for ideas. Inbaraj Suppiah, Creative Director of Pixaworks, admits that the window for submission itself was very small; as potential entrants only had a month to get their ideas in. However, StartupHouse did manage to receive some 25 submissions; of which 15 were chosen to attend a pitching session.
Five teams made the final cut, as they met the criteria of being interesting, workable, capable of being finished within the short time frame, and had some potential for monetisation. Some of the teams clearly had an idea of what they needed to do to have a successful app, or even how to monetise their ideas on a larger scale. Others had the sense that they would need to depend heavily on the mentors for guidance.
The projects talked about at the launch had changed dramatically from the initial pitch, as economic and business concerns forced the developers to alter their plans. One of which was Foodbits, which was originally intended as an app to compare supermarket prices. The supermarkets apparently did not like the idea and refused to partner with them and provide information. Developers Syed Muzani bin Syed Ahmad Safri, Muhammad Shahrir bin Bahar, and Asmahani binti Abu then changed direction to turn the app into its current incarnation as a digital cookbook that provides additional information about where to locate rarer ingredients and generate shopping lists.
One team was thinking very big in developing a transit app that would not only allow users to keep in touch with loved ones as they travel on express buses, but also collect transportation data for SPAD. Currently called Transitwatch it works like FourSquare, except that users check into specific buses instead of buildings. The developers hope it will work to give users peace of mind as their loved take buses during holiday periods. It will also double as data collection for authorities as it tracks how fast buses travel and provides transit information of when an express bus exceeds the speed limit.
The idea is to not only provide an app for regular consumers to use to track bus transit, but also expand it as the user base grows to provide big data applications for the Ministry of Transportation on how to deal with errant bus drivers. The team is working on travel statistics that can be shared on social media, and also more advanced analytics for researchers and government officials.
StartupHouse is aiming to get the apps out by April 2015, although these projects do not necessarily have to fully finished. Instead, the incubator hopes for a “minimum viable product” (MVP) that can be demonstrated to potential investors. There is also some RM50,000 worth of seed funding at the end of the incubation period for the team that designs the best MVP as decided by a panel of judges.
The current edition of StartupHouse is not yet working with any government bodies to assist the developers in getting their work out. However, Suppiah explained that he is preparing for a second round of the the incubator programme once the first group has completed their work. Pixaworks is in talks with MDeC and MaGIC to provide assistance in future efforts.
While it looks like the programme is fully capable of handling things on its own, having a little help with extra seed funding or expertise certainly won’t hurt any of the teams involved.
There is no word about when the second round of submissions will begin, but it should be after the first batch of StartupHouse graduates finish in April 2015. With any luck, they will be prepared to demo their ideas soon enough.