Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Thoughts on TechYizu

    A month ago, I went to startup demo day hosted by a Fudan University incubator. The event was rather disappointing as none of the startups that presented blew me away. In addition, the large majority of presenters including the winner of demo day were foreigners, I had wanted to see more local Chinese entrepreneurs. It also did not help that the local startups had the worst presentations by far.
    There were three startups that stood out to me for different reasons.

    Rudy Bike

    Rudy Bike has designed a chip that makes electric bikes more efficient, reliable and easily monitored. The chip is compatible with any brand of electric bike and easily installed, (plug and play). An Android phone was required to take full advantage of the chip, as it was paired with an app that would give the user the battery level as well as other features such as a turbo mode that would allow for the bike to go faster at the cost of more energy. They already have a working prototype.


    The reason that Rudy Bike stood out to me was not because it was a brilliant product, but rather due to its huge disconnect from its target market. Namely, that it is mainly the lower class in China that ride electric bikes. Rudy Bike quoted the price of its chip to be around 1000RMB, which as one judge on the panel pointed out is about how much a new electric bike cost. If doubling the cost of the bike was not enough, there was also the problem of requiring a smartphone in order to fully utilize the chip, probably adding on another 1000RMB if not more to the final price tag. It is hard to imagine that the typical Chinese electric bike rider would be willing or even capable of paying for a chip that would triple the price an electric bike.


    Self-proclaimed “Airbnb of food,” Mamazuofan is connecting hungry people with home cooked meals near them. Users log on to the site and see what is cooking around them, then they order online go to the chef’s home and pick up their meal. Their site is currently live, though the majority of users are foreigners.

    Mamazuofan’s concept was certainly the most unique at Techyizu, though I doubt the sustainability of it. After one transaction has been completed, the customer could very easily just grab the phone number of the chef and in the future cut Mamazuofan out of the process. In addition, the reason Airbnb works is because the renter of the room does not have to make much of an effort to rent out a room, the same cannot be said about a home cooked meal. I cannot see someone using Mamazuofan part time to supplement their income due to the thin margins and massive amount of prep time it takes to cook.


    The winner of demo day, Ultratradr is looking to disrupt the way banks and hedge funds recruit talent. Ultratradr is a game where players practice stock trading. The idea is that the best people in the game will get recruited by banks and hedge funds.

    My concern with Ultratradr, is that banks and hedge funds already have a strong process of recruiting top tier talent from universities. In the US recruiters routinely visit schools and aspiring finance students rub elbows with executives at networking events. I am not sure that the industry is looking for disruption as the process seems to be working quite well. However, the founder did mention that they are targeting small to medium sized firms, so that could put a different spin on things.

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