2017 has ended, but it will always be remembered as the year of the bitcoin.
It can be hard to forget with the rates of cryptocurrency surging more than 400% since January or the amusing name change of the ice tea company inspired by blockchain.
Still, there remain many rhetorics about bitcoin and its backbone technology blockchain. Some experts speculate it as another dot.com bubble, while others are predicting that its value will continue to rise.
Nevertheless, cryptocurrency has definitely driven a lot of attention and awareness, from interested investors to head-scratching audiences who are still unclear of the trend.
Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies – to date some might have used them interchangeably but cryptocurrency at its very core dictates the facilitation of peer-to-peer transaction.
Few people are aware, but cryptocurrencies emerged as a side product of another invention. Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown inventor of Bitcoin, the first and still most important cryptocurrency, never intended to invent a currency.
At first, he was looking to develop a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. It’d be decentralized with no server or central authority but still be able to prevent double spending.
Through this Satoshi came up with the idea of a decentralized network – one where every single entity of the network is to hold the list with all transactions to check.
In other words, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin consists a network of peers. Every peer holds a record of the complete history of all transaction and thus the balance of an account.
If a transaction is confirmed, made permissible by the user public key cryptography, then it’s set in stone and no longer reversible, becoming part of an immutable record of historical transactions of the so-called blockchain.
This makes sending money as easy as sending an email. It doesn’t matter where you are, or where you are sending to but the effect of cryptocurrency is to save money.
The invention of cryptocurrency didn’t just benefit business transactions, it opened up an industry and also many possibilities.
Of course, one being the financial business we are all so familiar of, which uses cryptocurrencies because of its low or close to none fee, as well as its instant ability to move any amount of money around.
On the other hand, there are those that utilize it for its blockchain technology, the decentralized network that allows every entity on the network to receive the same message at the same time.
Shiraz Malik, a regional expert even foresees it being implemented in the systems of airline companies through blockchain-powered loyalty programs and user-friendly mobile services. According to the expert, the technology would allow for streamlined authentication, data distribution, and security protocol.
“Blockchain can ensure that everyone involved in travel – airline crew, airport staff, ground services crew and passengers – have access to the same, up-to-date, verified information about arrivals, departures, and delays,” said Malik, who is vice president of sales APAC for CellPoint Mobile.
“This can help to avoid situations where airline and airport websites, mobile apps, text messages, passengers and staff members have outdated or conflicting information about flight statuses.”
Despite the speculations surrounding bitcoin, the frenzy, however, is proving to be essential in the developing markets of Southeast Asia.
In fact, most Southeast Asian startups are embracing cryptocurrencies both as investment products, as well as cost-effective methods for offering services.
So much that the remittance economy in the Philippines is the highest in the world – contributing to US$26 billion in a single year alone.
According to Forbes, approximately 10 million Filipinos have employed abroad, and this statistics does not include workers who are taking jobs in the cities, so they can send money home to their families in the more remote area.
That’s an arduous process when overseas domestic workers try to send money back home. They face steep fees relying on traditional cash transfer services. Even then, there are no guarantees that the beneficiary will be able to receive it, nevertheless receiving it immediately.
According to Mikko Perez, the founder, and CEO of Ayannah, it’s also not uncommon for agents to run out of money and force receivers to return the next day. It is generally time-consuming for people who have to travel hours just to pick up their money.
Stepping in to solve these issues, startups, and services like BloomSolutions Inc or coin.ph are using cryptocurrencies as a solution to reduce remittance fees, in addition to driving financial inclusion.
This is through creating crypto-powered services, accepting bitcoins from overseas and converting them into pesos, dinars or any desire currency, then deliver those funds to the final beneficiary through domestic transfer methods.
There’s no volatility risk and the beneficiary does not even need to know that those funds have been transmitted via bitcoin. Less money is spent doing so, and this makes it both affordable and accessible to a wide range of customers.
This is just the first mile. The service also renders the need for a physical agent or remittance outlets and traveling altogether. In Singapore for instance, migrant workers can use applications like Toast to do a peer-to-peer money transfer through their smartphones.
However, though some may argue that if you put it into the context that it is simply impossible for small bitcoin startups to overthrow the Western Union or Remitly at this stage.
Still, bitcoin and blockchain provide a compelling alternative for a small subsection of their customers, and unarguably startups are always best at focusing to solve the smallest possible problem.
In Southeast Asia, it’s not just remittance. Bitcoin and blockchain open up a world of possibilities from salary payments to business incorporation. This is just the beginning.
There has always been an appeal for designer homes. Like when Patrick Cox was moving to Ibiza, the Canadian-British shoe designer managed to sell his London home for US$3.62 million despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Truth is, designer homes can be hard to come by, and if there are any other options – it would mean you have to go to the designer itself.
But what if owning a designer house is as easy as a trip to IKEA? This is the vision Revolution Precrafted is aiming for being the world’s only branding house startup.
The startup is mixing prefab homes and luxury branding to revolutionize the real estate industry not just in the Philippines but around the world. Although it will only be two years old this December, the startup has already reached the unicorn status with its funding last week from Singapore’s K2.
Different from most startups, Revolution Precrafted hasn’t really been looking to raise capital. The startup has been profitable from the start. However, venture capitals and investment firms just couldn’t miss out the chance.
Khailee Ng, the managing partner of 500 Startups said, “the company didn’t need to raise. I had to convince them to take my money for value-add, not cash.”
On the other hand, K2 is founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat which has been known for his investments in Alibaba and Twitter before their public offering. The investment firm also counts several other unicorns in its portfolio including Spotify, Magic Leap, and Paytm.
However as excited as I was on the emergence of a new unicorn from Southeast Asia. After the initial thrill, I can’t help but wonder about the volatility of technological startups that has all aimed to disrupt the real estate industry. Will Revolution Precrafted purvey?
The startup is founded by Robbie Antonio who is one of the four sons of Century properties Group Inc. founder Jose E.B. Antonio. He is a voracious art collector and the brains behind family projects in collaboration with big names including Paris Hilton and the Trump Group.
Having grown up in the ever-dynamic real estate industry, Antonio knows the pain points and the massive opportunities that Revolution Precrafted can take advantage of. That is for real estate developers to deliver projects as quickly and as cost-efficiently possible.
The startup supplies the market with prefabricated homes which components has already been manufactured and pre-assembled before the on-site build. This include modular homes, condominium, pop-up retail stores, and fitness centers.
But unlike other prefab manufacturers such as Blu Homes or Acre Design, buildings designed by Revolution Precrafted all bear the names of some of the world’s top names in design and architecture.
From award-winning famous architects like Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel to celebrities like Tom Dixon and Lenny Kravitz, Revolution Precrafted provides ready designs which interested home buyers can choose from. This helps free time from the designing phases as well as the high price charged in unique designs.
Client can boast of living in a home designed by actor and singer Lenny Kravitz without having to pay the full cost but getting all of the benefits, in term of speed, quality, and branding.
But ultimately, Antonio’s greatest assets are also ownership of the intellectual property of world-class designers, the global network of fabricators and his invaluable relationships with developers and landowners. Through his ties with quality fabricators, the founder can complete the developments faster.
A 50-square-meter home can be done in as fast as three months as opposed to the usual two years since most of the components had already been fabricated, ready for assembly at the job site.
With this access to branded design of living spaces by combining world-renowned designers and latest advances in construction technology, Revolution Precrafted is able to democratize this area in the real estate industry.
Buying a luxury handbag these days seems to be no more uncommon than buying salmon for dinner at Walmart. The physical appeal of luxury goods is undeniable – the leather is softer, the shoes are more comfortable – the question is will it be the same – when it come to a designer home?
With a branded house strategy, Revolution Precrafted has to build a strong brand. One that is both easily recognizable and memorable, as well as desirable. As prefabricated homes has all along been advertised as easy, convenient, and cheap.
In fact, you can buy an entire house from Amazon.com at one-tenth of the price charged by Revolution Precrafted for $36,000 plus shipping. It’s a one-bedroom abode with a shower, toilet, sink, kitchenette, all hooked up to external sewer, electric, and water connection.
In this case, Revolution Precrafted has to build a taste for luxury designer home for the mass market. But I do think that once prefabricated homes has hit a certain tipping point, it will cause us – or at least a sizable cohort of us – to reevaluate a lot of the fundamentals of modern society which are so essential
Revolution Precrafted may have marked the unicorn status, still most of the concern over its future is to build its reputation among the mass market. And only then will the startup become the biggest home supplier in the world.
EXA Global, under the umbrella of digital entertainment and technology company Havson Group is unveiling Malaysia’s first ever Hyper Reality Experience at Setiawalk EXA Outpost.
Referred by EXA Global as South-East Asia’s first ever Hyper-Reality Family Entertainment Center, players will be able to experience a fully immersive, wireless, free-roaming gaming experience at EXA Outpost. This is made possible thanks to the combination of highly advanced virtual reality technologies like untethered backpack setup and multi-user motion capture system employed by EXA Global.
Richard Lee, the CEO of EXA Global explained that engagement is core to the project designed by the team. The focus is to get players involved in the technology to become part of the story.
“Getting the right module, enhancing the formula, experience and content are key components when creating and building an immersive advanced technology to have people sharing their hyper-reality experience with others,” said Lee.
Upon its launching, EXA Outpost will be featuring an exclusive VR multiplayer sci-fi shooter and space exploration mission, named EXA Dimension 12. Imagine role-playing Starship Troopers or Mass Effect in a fully immersive space dimension, that’s what the EXA Dimension 12 is all about. In the mission, players known as Troopers will first be transported to the Ingress room, where they will receive their EXA gears (guns, backpacks, and other wearables) for the upcoming exploration. Once geared up, players will then be dispatched and transported to the Dimension 12, it is here that the players will ride along a thrilling storyline, receive instructions to investigate unexplored regions, and fight off vicious extra-dimensional monsters with a diversified profile of advanced weaponries.
“Being that part of the story for our players is important to us, as we know experience is something valuable we at EXA Global can offer,” said Lee.
EXA Dimension 12, being fully developed in-house by EXA Global, is a respectable feat demonstrated by the talents of the team. For EXA Global, being able to develop content in-house also means they are not reliant on 3rd party developers for their future VR content. This opens a door to a promising future for EXA Global as they are free to develop any content that falls inline with their business strategy. In fact, this advantageous edge can already be observed as EXA Global has already started working on additional VR contents that revolve around horror and kids-friendly themes to expand their content portfolio.
Moving forward, the company notes that it is planning to open future locations around the world, targeting North America, Europe, Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Australia, and the neighboring countries surrounding Malaysia. Bigger flagship centers ranging from 10,000 square feet to football size venue will also be opened in future to house a bigger crowd, according to Lee.
Other than looking for rapid market expansion, the company is also looking to upgrade its VR hardware to further improve its hyper-reality experience. In the upcoming future, EXA Global will be developing a full body suit with haptic feedback that is mapped according to traditional Chinese acupuncture points to improve the surrealism of the game. Other wearables like VR gloves and augmented reality (AR) wristband will also be developed alongside the full body suit.
Another noteworthy future expansion for EXA Global is the development of VR eSport. With the rise of eSport in recent years, it is also part of EXA Global’s strategy to tap into this trend and pioneer the VR eSport scene. To achieve this, offering player-vs-player (PvP) experience at its VR centers will be one of the upcoming focuses for EXA Global. Seeing the success of eSports giants like Dota 2 (offering a prize pool of whopping $20,770,460 USD for its tournament) and League of Legend (having an active monthly user base of 100 millions players), the potential of VR as the future mainstream eSport is definitely a huge one.
“As part of the creative and innovative pioneer in digital entertainment and technology Havson Group, between ourselves we aim to create the ultimate immersive Hyper-Reality Studio experience within this region,” said Lee.
Located at SetiaWalk, Puchong, EXA Outpost consists of two rooms whereby one is dedicated to the games while the other is a Hyper Reality Arcade Entertainment Center where players can play VR arcade games. Open for public starting from 3rd of June, for those who wants to take a deep dive into the hyper-reality experience, players can now book for a pair of ticket at a promotional pricing of RM65 on their official website: https://www.exa-global.com/booking.php
An American tradition, this year Thanksgiving has marked the start of a sales frenzy which continues on Black Friday and ends on the note of CyberMonday. The three holidays lined up to make the most frenzied shopping spree that leads up to the busy Christmas period which is lying only a month away.
But it is not just the United States. As consumers from across the world had spent more than US$5.3 billion in the two-days sales starting on Thanksgiving last Thursday which was extended to Black Friday. This figure accounts for an 18 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report from Adobe Systems.
In this scenario, Amazon, the giant internet business says that Thanksgiving is gradually becoming the new Black Friday as the company noted that some of its site’s Best Black Friday deals have already heated up during the “Turkey 5”.
However, when evaluating just Black Friday, the sales remains the highest as compared to Thanksgiving. The popular shopping festivity accounted for an estimated US$3.34 billion by the end of the day, which is a 21.6 percent increase from the same day last year, as according to Adobe Systems.
But comparatively, this year more buyers were going online for bargains and convenience instead of the traditional campout outside bricks and mortar shop. That is to say, online sales has outshined offline sales with spending via mobile devices on Friday in the United States seeing an increase of 33 percent to an all-time high of US$1.2 billion.
These results were not unexpected as it was clear from the start that the mobile platform has a significant impact on e-commerce sales, looking at Alibaba’s Singles Day Sales which was held on November 11. Furthermore, mobile platforms are proved to be the more convenient option for customers as they can perform their shopping anywhere, anytime and in any way.
Similarly, major retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, Target and eBay, noted that mobile traffic and sales were on the rise. Amazon said that mobile orders on Thanksgiving topped Cyber Monday last year, for example, while Walmart said that over 70 percent of website traffic on Thanksgiving was mobile. Target said that 60 percent of Thanksgiving sales were from mobile devices.
What is interesting, however as reported by Adobe, is that smartphones do not drive as many conversions as tablets and desktops. Because while conversions have as a whole increased, smartphone conversions were the lowest at 1.9 percent, as compared with the conversion rates of tablets at 3.7 percent and desktops at 4 percent. Holiday averages also show a similar trend where it was still the lowest for smartphones at 1.3 percent, while tablets and desktop are 2.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.
These results obtained in the Adobe’s report was based on aggregated and anonymous data from 22.6 billion visits to retail websites and consist of 80 percent of all online transactions from the top 100 U.S. retailers. Though it may be argued that Adobe’s sample does not cover the entirety of the scenario but still the sample is large enough for its numbers to be fairly close.
Additionally, Adobe also noted this year’s top-selling electronics which were Apple iPads, Samsung 4K TVs, the Apple Macbook Air, LG TVs and Microsoft Xbox. While top-selling toys included Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouse.
“The negative impact on online shopping we saw following the election has not been fully made up, but consumers are back online and shopping,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst, and director, Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “As spending ramps up on Black Friday, we are back on track. We still expect Cyber Monday to surpass Black Friday and become the largest online sales day in history with $3.36 Billion.”
On another note, a promotional email which reads “President-elect Trump loves a great deal” shows that even the President-elect Donald Trump has participated in the online sales excitement. On Friday morning, Trump’s online store has made an announcement that it was offering a 30 percent off deal on all campaign products, which includes a US$149 Christmas ornament.
For more information, please visit Adobe Online Shopping Data
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media