Over the past two years, Asia has emerged as the world’s top marketplace for apps–and it’s still growing. Revenue in Asia rose by a massive 162% in 2013, “annihilating” growth in all other continents, according to a new report by Distimo. Furthermore, that increase was fueled in large part by Google Play, where revenue from Asia more than quadrupled in 2013.
In comparison, the App Store’s growth in Asia was much slower: a 94% increase in revenue for iPhone apps and 64% for iPad apps. But that was still faster than the App Store’s total growth in Europe or North America, as seen in the chart below.
For its report, Distimo looked at daily App Store and Google Play downloads. Asia accounted for 41% of global app revenue in December 2013, compared to 31% from North America and 23% from Europe.
Overall app revenue in Asia is now split almost evenly between Google Play and Apple’s App Store. In comparison, the App Store still leads in North America, where it accounts for 75% of app revenue, with Google Play making up the remaining 25% (the divide is similar in Europe).
“Clearly, Asia is a different landscape than what’s seen in North America and Europe,” wrote Distimo analyst Anne Hezemans.
A lot of attention has been paid to China’s alternative Android app stores, thanks in part to the $1.9 billion acquisition of 91 Wireless by Internet giant Baidu. But Japan is still the most lucrative country for app developers in Asia, followed by South Korea and China. Though mobile penetration rates are rising rapidly throughout the continent, especially in Southeast Asia, there is still a wide disparity between app revenue in different regions.
“To put into perspective the enormous difference in revenue between the top Asian country Japan and Malaysia, Japan’s revenue is 77 times that of Malaysia’s,” wrote Hezemans. “The extremely disproportionate revenue share among Asian countries led us to believe that the market isn’t evenly divided.”
Even though Japan was last year’s leader in app revenue, South Korea enjoyed the highest growth. App revenue in the country shot up by 271%. Most revenue in South Korea came from Google Play, which is unsurprising because Apple holds just a 14% market share there, according to Flurry.
Freemium is still the leading business model in Asia. In China, apps generated 96% of revenue from in-app purchases, while Japan and South Korea had similar rates at 94% and 91%, respectively. In comparison, in-app purchases generates about 76% of revenue in the U.S.
Like their counterparts in the rest of the world, most mobile users spend their in-app time playing games. Rovio’s Angry Birds Go! was the most downloaded game in Asia in December, followed by a Chinese game called CarrotFantasy2: Polar Adventure.
For China, where only 3.5% of devices have Google Play installed, Distimo partnered with Wandoujia, one of the largest alternative Android app stores in the country, to get data from more than 300 million users.
According to Wandoujia, games by foreign developers “have a big opportunity to reach millions of gamers in China,” as evidenced by the popularity of titles like Temple Run 2, Subway Surfers, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja, all of which were among the top seven titles in the country last year.
But local developers still dominate non-game apps, just as local software dominated the PC Internet.
“China’s domestic market is so large that it can support an entirely independent ecosystem from the rest of the world,” said the report.
In fact, the 3.5% of Chinese users who do have Google Play on their phones are a relatively international demographic. Just 65% of the apps they purchased were made by local developers, compared to 87% for Wandoujia’s users.
Many Western game makers were initially skeptical about breaking into China’s app marketplace because of piracy and the difficulty of monetizing games. But Wandoujia’s data showed that mobile gamers are now more willing to spend money on in-app purchases. From April to November 2013, the average revenue per paying user for massively multi-player online games grew a massive 400%, beating growth in Japan (282% year-over-year) and Korea (342% year-over-year).
“Android users have a hungry appetite for in-game purchases, bucking the old myth that Chinese users won’t spend money for services,” wrote Hezemans.
For more data, see the full report.
[[Image by Newport Geographic]]
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Kickstarter is undoubtedly the top crowdfunding site in the world, with over $480 million pledged in 2013. For projects outside of the five countries (the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) the platform is available in, however, launching a campaign is very difficult. That’s where Melbourne-based Pozible comes in. The site recently launched in Singapore and Malaysia, the first step in its Asia-focused international expansion strategy. Over the last three years, more than 5,000 projects have raised a total of $16 million AUD (about $14.3 million USD) on Pozible, which also offers a low-cost e-commerce platform.
Pozible still faces competition from Kickstarter (if an international team has a member with residency in one of the five countries it is officially available in, it can still submit a campaign), as well as other crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo, which allows projects from around the world.
But Pozible wants to differentiate with its ‘grassroots engagement’ strategy, as well as being the first global platform to focus on Southeast Asia, co-founder and director Rick Chen told me in an email.
Pozible’s wide-range of funding option, including Bitcoin, is meant to make international contributions easier. It accepts more than 25 currencies.
Chen told me in an email that Pozible, which is open to creators in every country, is “a ‘wide open’ platform, in the sense that as long as the project has a clearly defined creative outcome, we are very happy to accept them.”
The site does have a review process, but it is a quick one, and Chen says the platform is especially popular for film, music and art projects. Pozible takes a 5% cut of the total amount pledged for successful campaigns. It also allows creators to continue using their campaign pages to sell products and takes 5% off a product’s selling price, but does not charge monthly or transactional fees.
The startup is tracking support for projects in more than 105 countries and has “big plans for international growth.”
“As we’ve only opened up access to non-Australian markets recently, our user base is still heavily Australian (more than >60% of traffic), followed closely by U.S., Europe and Asia traffic,” Chen tells me. “We’re working to build up our user base in Asia, and these efforts are already starting to show developments, with an increase in Asian projects and Asian web traffic.”
Pozible offers several funding models, including private crowdfunding, subscription crowdfunding, and self-hosted crowdfunding, which launched earlier this week. Private crowdfunding works is similar to CrowdTilt and is meant for small businesses or groups of friends who don’t want to make their project public. Subscription-based crowdfunding allows people to open monthly subscriptions to their supporters. Pozible’s self-hosted crowdfunding allows project creators who already have large following on their sites to launch their own crowdfunding service.
The platform puts extra effort into building community engagement by holding workshops and programs throughout Australia to familarize people with Pozible. Chen says they plan to duplicate those events in various Asian cities.
Though the site is especially popular among artists and musicians, it has hosted a wide variety of projects ranging from academic research to “Patient 0,” a ‘real-life’ zombie role-player game, which raised $243,480 AUD (about $217,000 USD), the highest amount by a Pozible campaign so far.
“Pozible works very closely with our projects, which is why we have a far higher success rate (56% vs Kickstarter’s 43%),” says Chen. “We constantly host Pozible workshos in the cities we work in; at these workshops, we reach out to specific communities and interest groups and we tailor our approach to make sure they get the education they need in order to optimize their chances of crowdfunding success.”
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MTN Group and Rocket Internet announced that they have formed a new joint venture to invest in startups in the Middle East, with a focus on e-commerce. The two companies will each hold a 50% stake in Middle East Internet Holding (MEIH). The announcement follows another partnership, concluded earlier this week, between MTN, Rocket Internet and Millicom International Cellular, to develop startups in Africa through Africa Internet Holding (AIH). MTN expects to pour $300 million euros (about USD $400 million) into AIH and MEIH, subject to regulatory approval, by the first and second quarter of 2014, respectively.
Based in Johannesburg, MTN is one of Africa’s largest telecom operators. Rocket Internet can potentially leverage MTN’s footprint as it seeks to tap into the continent’s fastest growing Internet markets, including Kenya and Nigeria.
Its agreements with MTN follows several other key partnerships cemented by Rocket Internet. For example, earlier this month Rocket Internet and U.K. retail giant Tesco, the world’s second-largest retailer by revenues after Wal-mart, announced a strategic investment partnership that began with a $250 million lead investment in Lazada. The online marketplace, which Rocket Internet has invested $486 million in so far, operates in Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Back in July, Rocket Internet also said that it had raised an additional $500 million from two regular investors, Kinnevik and Access, to fund new and existing ventures with a focus on Latin America and Asia.
Africa and the Middle East are two key emerging markets in Berlin-based Rocket Internets’ global expansion strategy, which is especially important for Rocket Internet because Europe’s e-commerce market is already saturated.
In a statement, MTN Group president and CTO Sifiso Dabengway said “The agreement with Rocket marks yet another important milestone in our journey of pursuing digital business adjacencies as one of our key strategic priorities, to drive growth and value for our customers.”
Rocket Internet co-founder Oliver Samwer added “I am very confident that the strategic partnership between MTN and Rocket Internet is going to accelerate the online shift in the Middle East. With joint forces, Middle East Internet Holding will develop its already existing ventures even better and will launch new companies even faster and more successfully.”
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
If you thought that the days of Samwer brothers e-commerce investments with the eBays and Groupons of the world were over, think again. Today, their Berlin-based incubator Rocket Internet announced a new and strategic investment partner, the UK physical and online retail giant Tesco. Tesco, which is the world’s second-largest retailer by revenues (after Walmart) will now work in “close cooperation” with the brothers’ incubator. That will begin by leading a $250 million round in Lazada, an Amazon-like online marketplace with operations across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Other Rocket regulars Access Industries, Kinnevik and Verlinvest also participated.
Other aspects of the deal, Rocket says, will include “customer analytics, private label development and supply chain management.” And as another part of the news, it has also expanded operations in the region with Lamido in Indonesia and Vietnam — a social commerce effort “to tap into the large informal e-commerce market of C2C transactions which includes thousands of shops on social networks such as Facebook.”
It comes on the heels of a $100 million round in Lazada only six months ago and brings the total invested into Lazada to $486 million.
Rocket Internet — which is known mainly for incubating e-commerce startups — notes that this is the first time that Tesco has invested in a pure-play e-commerce operation. Up to now, Tesco has built an empire on Walmart-style supermarkets, primarily in the UK, using that to expand as a strong and early player in e-commerce in grocery and home goods delivery and later digital goods to complement the sale of electronics.
But the investment news comes at a tricky time for Tesco: the company has long been seen as an aggressive and successful retailer, but its strategy has stumbled in the past two years. In the last quarter sales were down 1.5% in its main UK stores, and sales in other markets in Europe were down 4%, and in Asia 5.1%. In September, it put its U.S. Fresh & Easy stores into bankruptcy (so, maybe not so Easy to crack the U.S., after all).
In that context, a focus on new, emerging markets that ride on operations that have already been seeded is a sign to investors that Tesco is now betting big on new opportunities. Emerging markets like Southeast Asia are a key target because they are large, and fast-growing. Southeast Asia as a region has some 600 million consumers who are only now really getting turned on to smartphones and shopping online.
Indeed, this seems to be the rationale for Tesco’s investment. “This investment in Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce retailer continues our strategy of developing leading multichannel businesses in core growth markets,” said Robin Terrell, group multichannel director of Tesco, in a statement. “Lazada is an exciting, pioneering business which has developed a market-leading offer in each of its five markets in just 18 months.”
Notably, Rocket Internet has established e-commerce businesses spanning home goods, fashion, financial services and much more across every continent. It has put a particularly strong focus on operations in emerging markets in recent years because they are growing faster and are less crowded with competition, Oliver Samwer told me earlier this year in an interview. It has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to build out these operations, often from repeat investors — something that could either point to sustained success if you are a Samwer believer or ponzi-like tendencies focused around clones, if you are one of their detractors.
The real truth is that it’s hard to tell, because as is usual with Rocket Internet, it is not revealing the revenues, net income/loos or any other financial metrics of its operations. However, Tesco is a publicly-traded company, and that will likely lead to demands for greater transparency in the future. (For now Rocket tells us that the operation has some 1,500 employees across five Southeast Asian countries and that Lazada is the “leading online general merchandiser across the region.”
Although Access Industries, controlled by Russian-born (now U.S. citizen) tycoon Len Blavatnik, is a regular Rocket Internet investor, this will be Access’ first investment in Lazada. “We are delighted to welcome Tesco and Access to join our investor group through this funding round,” said Maximilian Bittner, CEO of Lazada Group, in a statement.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Earlier this year, Rocket Internet announced the closing of a huge fund of $500 million that it would use to develop its portfolio companies in markets outside of Western Europe. Today, one of the big backers of that fund, Access Industries, is leading a $112 million investment into two of Rocket’s big e-commerce plays in the Asia-Pacific region, Zalora in Asia and The Iconic in Australia. Rocket Internet says that this is the biggest single funding announcement for any e-commerce site to date in the region – breaking Zalora’s own record from just six months ago, when it raised $100 million.
The purpose of the funding will be to keep growing out the businesses, the company says, targeting some 600 million “potential online shopping customers in the region.” That region, today, includes Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam for Zalora; and Australia and New Zealand for the Iconic.
“The investment allows us to continue building out our position as the leading fashion and beauty e-commerce retailer in Southeast Asia,” Michele Ferrario, Managing Director of the ZALORA Group, said in a statement. “We are focused on offering the best possible customer experience paired with a unique product offering of local and international brands. We will use this new investment to improve our position as the high-street fashion authority in Southeast Asia. We will grow our assortment and further enhance the portfolio of our private labels. Our goal is to continue serving up world-class products and services, so everyone in South-East Asia can benefit from the wide selection of products at ZALORA.”
Rocket Internet has confirmed to me that this $112 million investment is completely separate and “has nothing to do with the $500 million fund”. Along with Access Industries, Scopia Capital Management LLC and other institutional investors also participated.
The huge sums getting raised point to a few trends:
The first is the growth of e-commerce in emerging markets.
While countries like the U.S. and those in Western Europe with more mature economies continue to rake in billions of dollars in revenue from the sale of goods online (the recent holiday shopping week in the U.S. is one recent testament to that), new markets are actually a very important target for all online players looking to tap into the next mass of yet-to-be “owned” users.
In many cases, the infrastructure for offline commerce is actually less good in emerging markets, creating a new kind of business that is not so much disruptive as it is establishing a new opportunity altogether to sell to consumers – along with all the payments and logistics and distribution that come along with that.
On the other hand, the bottom-line revenue opportunity remains a less good one. AT Kearney, cited in the FT, estimates that the e-commerce market in Southeast Asia is worth $6 billion to $7 billion a year. In contrast, Alibaba alone made $5.7 billion on a single day in November.
Still, there is 30% growth in SEA amid a burgeoning middle class. And the lack of competition also means potentially higher margins, even if the businesses are targeting what are by and large less wealthy economies.
As Oliver Samwer told me when announcing the $500 million fund earlier this year, “If you look at the most successful mobile carriers, it’s the ones who have moved into emerging markets. In Brazil, for example, the growth as well as the margins for mobile carriers are higher than they are in Europe, so that complexity is rewarded,” he said, pointing to the size of the future. “People often refer to all these emerging markets as the ‘rest of the world,’ but we’re talking about 5 billion people here.”
The second is that Rocket Internet continues to be very aggressive in pursuing these markets.
While companies like Amazon and eBay have become the defacto e-commerce leaders in mature economies, with thousands of smaller players underneath them; in markets like Asia they are less established. That means that Rocket Internet has more of a chance to build the “next” Amazon or eBay – putting in a bid to be the ones controlling that operation, or potentially selling it to one of the other giants yet to enter those markets. (eBay, for example, has been very clear about its ambitions in emerging markets.)
Rocket Internet traditionally is bullish on raising money to build these businesses not just because expanding e-commerce operations can be capital-intensive, but because they want to build them out quickly to fend off any potential competition from local players and big international companies with local ambitions.
Generally, Rocket Internet has not been super transparent about how much money individual companies have raised. Or how much they make – Rocket today only offers the following information: “This new round of funding signals investors’ strong confidence in the online retailer after a period of ongoing accelerated growth. Since its inception in 2012, ZALORA has grown to be Southeast Asia’s leading online fashion & beauty retailer offering more than 130,000 products and over 500 international brands.” Meanwhile, Patrick Schmidt, CEO of THE ICONIC, notes that The Iconic is “approaching one million orders being shipped” in Australia.
In this case, we don’t know how much of the $112 million is going to Zalora, and how much to The Iconic. Prior to the $100 Zalora raise in May, it had raised $26 million as well as another round “in the double-digit millions.”
The third is Rocket Internet’s reliance on repeat business from existing investors.
Access Industries is what you might call a Rocket regular – not just taking part in the $500 million fund, but also leading a $130 million round in Lamoda, Rocket’s fashion commerce site in Russia.
Access Industries has also put money into Rocket Internet’s Pinterest clone Pinspire and home furnishings site Westwing. And in May 2012, Blavatnik and Access Industries also put $200 million as a direct investment into Rocket Internet itself. (That’s aside from other huge investments, such as its stake in music streaming site Deezer.)
What to say about that? It seems that there is an enormous amount of money swirling around when you are the right person asking for it, and while we don’t know how much money Zalora or The Iconic are making today, clearly it’s interesting enough that Access Industries keeps coming back for more.
“ZALORA’s experienced management team has put the company on a path to become a premier online fashion destination. We are pleased to be part of this dynamic success story,” said Jörg Mohaupt, ZALORA Board Member from Access Industries, in a statement.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Carousell, a Singapore-based consumer-to-consumer marketplace app for iOS and Android, has raised a $1 million SGD (about $800,000 USD) seed round led by Rakuten. Other investors include Golden Gate Ventures, 500 Startups, Danny Oei Wirianto and Darius Cheung. The startup will use its funding to expand into Indonesia and Malaysia before tackling other Southeast Asian markets.
The startup’s founding team, Quek Siu Rui, Marcus Tan Yi Wei and Lucas Ngoo, demoed the first version of the app at Startup Weekend Singapore in March 2012 and began working on it full-time two months later. Rui says the trio wanted to create a marketplace app because they found using classified listing sites and online forums to sell secondhand books, clothing and other small items tedious and time-consuming. Carousell is very easy to use: listings can be made by taking a photo and writing a brief description of the item, and buyers can browse listings based on their location.
Southeast Asia’s mobile penetration rates are already high and still rapidly growing. Carousell hopes to fuel its growth by giving smartphone users an easy and social alternative to online classified listings. The startup’s founding team spent a year working on the app. Carousell’s features include photo filters, Facebook and Twitter integration and mobile-optimized Web pages that are automatically created for each listing.
“We were inspired by Instagram’s ease of use,” says Riu. “It also has the scale that we aspire to.”
Carousell’s target users are women between 16 to 34. The startup has not disclosed the size of its user base, but says that its community has already created a million listings, 20% of which get purchased. Most listings are fashion and beauty products, secondhand tech gadgets, and handcrafted items. Riu says the app gained traction by marketing on university campuses, placing magazine advertisements and looking for potential sellers in flea markets and online forums. So far, Carousell’s early adopters are highly engaged. The startup claims that its users open the app about 10 times each day on average, spending a total of 24 minutes on it.
As the app scales up, Riu says Carousell will add in-app payment options to enable credit card transactions (buyers and sellers currently arrange payment and delivery details through the app’s private chat feature). Carousell is looking at several monetization strategies, including charging for premium features such as additional payment options and taking transaction fees.
Though Riu says that his company’s relationship with new investor Rakuten is “not a strategic one,” Carousell fits into the Japanese e-commerce’s strategy of growing its global footprint by investing in or acquiring Southeast Asian tech startups. In September, Rakuten spent a reported $200 million to buy Viki, a global video streaming platform that crowdsources translated subtitles. Like Carousell, Viki is also based in Singapore. Earlier this year, Rakuten also set up a $10 million fund to invest in startups primarily from Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“There is an entire generation of Internet users that will leapfrog the desktop computer and come online through the smartphone. The first apps they are going to use are the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If they wanted to buy or sell something online, they are going to expect an experience that is equally simple, intuitive and fun to use. Carousell is in the best position to ﬁll that need,” said Sae Min Ahn, managing partner of Rakuten’s investment arm, in a statement.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Developed by two Cambridge PhD students, 1Checker is a proofreading platform that seeks to be a better alternative to Microsoft Word’s spellchecker and Grammarly for non-native English speakers. 1Checker and its sibling 1Course, an online learning management platform for language schools, identifies errors commonly made by people who learned English as a second language and makes contextually appropriate suggestions so users can avoid embarrassing errors.
Both software platforms were developed by Greedy Intelligence, a London-based startup that received seed funding from Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s seed fund, and is currently closing its Series A round.
Co-founder Yichi Zhang began working on 1Checker’s natural language processing technology in 2007 while studying for a PhD in software engineering at Cambridge. Zhang, a native Chinese speaker, had a difficult time finding proofreaders to help him check academic papers he wanted to submit for publication. He also discovered that Microsoft Word’s built-in spelling and grammar checking tools frequently did not catch common errors made by non-native English speakers.
For example, Zhang says, someone who learned English as a second language might write “red big bag” instead of “big red bag.” Word’s spellchecker would ignore the confusing sequence of adjectives because it is a mistake most native English speakers don’t make. Other common errors include mixing up homophones like “affect” and “effect.”
Zhang developed 1Checker with Greedy Intelligence CTO Lin Sun and other Cambridge graduate students from China who wanted to use the software on their own writing. The team tried different algorithms before having a “major breakthrough” in 2009, when they finally achieved the right balance between coverage and accuracy, the two things proofreading software has to balance.
“We maintained a certain level of accuracy while we expanded coverage to make sure that the checker could understand errors by non-native speakers,” says Zhang. “We used machine learning and other artificial intelligence algorithms to make the computer not only understand grammar rules, but to also understand the semantics and context of the whole paper. That’s why the system can spot contextual errors.”
In 2010, Greedy Intelligence won the £5,000 Cambridge University Entrepreneurs’ (CUE) challenge and received funding from Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s official seed funding, marking its transformation from an extracurricular project into a startup. Earlier this year, the company launched 1Course, its first paid product. 1Course is targeted toward language schools that offer prep courses for the TOEFL, GRE, GMAT and other standardized tests. Many of these institutions use scoring software like ETS’ e-rater or Vantage IntelliMetric to check student essays for errors.
1Course seeks to be better at evaluating how clearly non-native English speakers have expressed their thesis, supporting material and conclusion.
“You have to understand the organization, development and grammar, as well as the complexity of the vocabulary and sentence structures,” says Zhang.
One of the reasons Greedy Intelligence offers 1Checker for free is so the software can glean more data and refine its algorithm. Both 1Checker and 1Course become more accurate as more people use it, but Zhang says Greedy Intelligence is also mindful of user privacy. It learns from user preference (for example, which vocabulary suggestions people pick the most often), but it doesn’t keep their writing.
“It logs users’ choices rather than their sentences,” says Zhang. “We definitely don’t know the user’s tasks or their private information and, to be honest, we’re not that interested.”
Most of Greedy Intelligence’s users are currently located in China or countries such as Malaysia and Singapore where English is frequently spoken as a second language. The company wants to begin marketing its software in other languages and will re-invest earnings from 1Course in research and development. The technology used by Greedy Intelligence is not language-related, so its basic algorithm and whole mechanism can be adapted to other languages fairly quickly, says Zhang. 1Checker currently has a total of 700,000 users.
“That is not a lot compared to other free software available in China, but it’s a very niche market. We are targeting non-native speakers, most of them potential overseas students, including some academic speakers that want to get published in international conference journals, as well as people working for international companies,” says Zhang.
The company plans to add features such as “phase level enrichment,” which means that 1Checker will help users rephrase sentences that are confusing or too colloquial. Support will also be added for mathematical papers and legal terms.
“We want to offer features that no language tools or grammar checkers currently do. Some can, but its human-coded grammar rules, not results based on computer intelligence,” says Zhang.
Both 1Course and 1Checker are based on the same technology. Zhang identifies 1Checker’s main competitors as Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checking tools, as well as online proofreading platforms like Grammarly, which also offers a plagiarism checking feature. Both of Greedy Intelligence’s products seek to differentiate by accurately honing in on errors made by non-native speakers, as well as offering language enrichment tools.
“1Checker has much, much wider coverage, especially with errors made by non-native speakers, simply because we use non-native models. Our software is designed especially for non-native speakers. We have certain corpora, the linguistics term for language data. We collect a lot of language data written by non-native speakers, as well as some corrected by non-native speakers,” says Zhang. “Our development team understands the pain of non-native speakers, too.”
1Checker and 1Course’s enrichment tools are designed to help its users quickly improve their English writing skills. For instance, if you use a certain word too many times, 1Checker will automatically suggest new or more advanced vocabulary. Most importantly for non-native English speakers, the suggested words are contextually appropriate. The next update of 1Checker will add grammar enrichment so the software can suggest suitable alternatives for overused phrases.
“If you use StyleWriter, Grammarly or other proofreading tools, they will only tell you if you are using simple sentences too much,” says Zhang. “What a non-native speaker needs are very detailed suggestions. If I am writing a paper or an email, I probably don’t have hours to proofread or rewrite. The only thing I want to do is spend five or 10 minutes making my writing as professional as possible.”
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
One of the many joys of exploring a city like Taipei is its maze of lanes and alleyways, which are lined with small shops, incense-filled temples and leafy parks. The downside is wrangling with addresses like this: 台北市南港區八德路四段768巷1弄18號B1之1 (B1-1, No. 18, Alley 1, Lane 768, Bade Rd Sec 4, Nangang District, Taipei City). A new startup called POcode (which stands for “post office code”) wants to help businesses in cities with equally serpentine non-English addresses attract customers and prevent them from getting lost on their way over.
POcode’s Web app generates an eight to 12 digit alphanumeric code for individual addresses that users can enter on its site to pull up a Web page with a map, directions and venue information. Each page also includes location coordinates in several formats (decimal, DMS, UTM, GPS) as well as a QR code and Microsoft tags (see an example here).
Founders Mark Lee and Phil Foo, who are based in Malaysia, say navigation tools like GPS devices are often cumbersome to use when searching for addresses written in non-Roman alphabet languages. Potential competitors include address shorteners and Google Places, but Lee hopes businesses will use POcode because it gives them an easy to way to build a Web presence. The site plans to market to users in countries with languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet, such as Chinese, Russian, Korea, Japanese or Arabic. Use cases include restaurants and stores that want to attract expatriates who can’t read the local language or people throwing parties who don’t want guests to get lost.
Lee says he came up with the idea for POcode while trying to direct clients to his media production company on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. After confusing GPS directions led several people astray, Lee built a site with a map, pictures that showed his building from several angles, four different kinds of coordinates and a QR Code and Microsoft Tag.
As POcode grows, it will add features like an analytics dashboard that will let users see who is viewing their information, as well as an inbox messaging system so customers can reach business owners directly from the site. Lee says POcode will monetize through premium features such as custom POcodes, including ones with the digit 8, an auspicious number in Chinese culture, or easy-to-memorize codes.
Lee and Foo are currently bootstrapping the developing of their site with their savings, as well as ad revenue from their online magazine The Asian Angler, which grew out of their mutual passion for fly fishing.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch