Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. It’s hard to imagine modern life without them (not to mention how much free time we’d all have), but each of these social behemoths started out as an idea in a kid’s head, before growing into, or being acquired by, a global company. These are notable examples of a larger pattern, according to Vizeum APAC’s CEO Kristian Barnes, who led a session on Tuesday entitled ‘2 Kids In A Garage’.
Barnes used the growing issue of mobile battery life to strengthen his case. It’s not a problem that’s going to solve itself, and as many popular games and apps can suck the life out of your phone, it affects a vast number of people. One possible fix Barnes cited was a shoe that used kinetic energy to charge your smartphone while you walk. “The ability to charge your device, regardless of situation, is ground-breaking,” he says. Another solution was a device which could charge other portable devices in 20 to 30 seconds – an invention with the potential to transform the way we power phones, tablets, computers, and even cars.
The inventor of this miracle device is eighteen years old. The creator of the charging shoe is fifteen. “How come a mobile company or batter company couldn’t solve that problem?” Asks Barnes. “That innovation could be worth millions, or billions.” The answer is simple; younger inventors and entrepreneurs are more likely to address the problems right in front of them. “There is a whole generation of makers,” continues Barnes, “seeing no hurdle in solving real world problems… no barrier between creativity and technology.”
Almost 17% of 15 to 24 year olds believe that they have a genuinely game-changing idea on which to base a business, many of which are necessity-based. This is particularly the case in Asia, where there is a spread between efficiency-driven and innovation-driven ideas; this is partly the reason Hong Kong was recently named the number one tech city to watch by Forbes.
Barnes was joined on-stage by Saim Siddiqui, founder of necessity-driven start-up Asli Goli, and FaceRecog’s Muhd Amrullah. There was also a video presentation by Nobo Okada, the founder of Astroscale, whose absence was justified on the basis that he was busy in Houston, talking to NASA.
Asli Goli: Waging war on fake drugs
A shocking 25% of drugs in the developing world are counterfeit. In Pakistan, for example, one in four pills will be a placebo: “This is not just an individual story,” says Saim Siddiqui, “but something that is happening on a very large scale.” Asli Goli (‘real pill’ in Urdu) was conceived to take on the growing problem of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. “There is a need for something transformative,” says Siddiqui, “but that change has to be accessible.”
Asli Goli worked with pharma manufacturers to create a scratch label which would enable patients to easily authenticate their drugs, and even check the expiry date, via SMS. The first Asli Goli meds hit shelves at Christmas, and Siddiqui hopes that in the longer run, Asli Goli will be a gateway to patient contact, giving companies better insight into patient behaviour, and enable more effective management of long-term illnesses such as heart disease and HIV/AIDS.
Astroscale: Cleaning up the cosmos
Debris floating through space may not initially seem to be the kind of problem that has an immediate impact on daily life, but Nobu Okada, founder of Astroscale, says otherwise. Mankind has not gone above a certain altitude since 1972 due to the risk of collision with debris and satellites – this sort of incident could disable broadcasting, GPS and communication networks all over the world.
Okada and his team are working on a ‘mothership’ satellite which will launch smaller satellites to find and latch onto pieces of debris, then drag them into the atmosphere where they will burn up. “Debris that has been up there for 200 years will disappear within two days,” says Okada, who hopes to start sweeping the skies as early as 2017.
FaceRecog: Insight and emotional analytics
While tracking the way that people interact with online ads has become a niche science, until now it has been almost impossible to gage consumer responses to offline ads, unless you were to actually spy on people as they walked past a billboard.
FaceRecog, founded by Muhd Amrullah, gives advertisers real life data to work with. Using facial recognition technology, one of their terminals will measure age, gender, and emotional cues, in addition to telling you exactly how long each person spent looking at the ad, in real time.
Of course, this technology has much wider reaching applications; for example, consider the possibilities in lie-detection, if you were able to see the slight discolouration of the skin or changes in breathing motions that are invisible to the naked eye. That, ultimately, is what each of these young entrepreneurs have in common, according to Barnes – the potential to influence behaviour, disrupt industries, and change the world we live in.