VR entertainment technology startup Havson Group has closed funding from Silicon Valley-based venture capital seed fund and accelerator, 500 Startups. Producing unique VR content and using advanced VR technology that solves problems of motion sickness and latency, Havson Group has recognised the booming virtual reality industry in Southeast Asia and generated early interest from global players.
Pioneering the introduction of VR in the region, Havson Group recently launched EXA Outpost, a first of its kind hyper-reality development studio based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where players leave reality behind and immerse themselves in a first-person experience that puts players in the middle of a dimension exploration.
EXA Outpost 1 located at SetiaWalk Puchong
EXA Outpost: Mission Room
EXA Outpost: Angkas Zone
Backed by a team that has deep-seated knowledge of the industry, Havson Group has been no stranger to the world of gaming. Starting off as Mediasoft, the team has developed some of the top mobile games in the world including the badminton game Jump Smash and the world’s first sepak takraw game Roll Spike that saw more than 10 million downloads.
The founders of Havson Group of companies (Left) Rayson Wong; (Right) Havene Liew
Cementing its track record to date, Havson Group participated and subsequently won the Alibaba CACSC competition held in Singapore in August 2016 emerging as a Champion against 12 other startups from the region. And becomes Merit winner of global final in Hangzhou, China. Havson Group’s unique advantage comes from its VR solution enabling players to move freely in a large space without motion sickness.
Havson Group – Champion of Singapore Division, CACSC 2016
“Through the Alibaba CACSC competition, we managed to prove to the world that we are an emerging global tech company solving real gaming problems.” said Kee Saik Meng, Founding Partner of Havson Group.
Havson Group – Merit Winner of Global Final, CACSC 2016
Havson Group was also the first Malaysian startup showcasing their VR content at the Silicon Valley VR Expo in San Jose.
Even though well known on the international gaming scene, the problems Havson Group sought to address with their tech solutions were more regional. Bringing the VR industry to Southeast Asia, Havson Group saw its many advantages for the market including drawing traffic to dying malls.
“Our VR Parks provides a solution for mall operators wanting to attract footfall, especially from millennials, and provides a gaming experience unlike any other VR multiplayer has done.” said Havene Liew, Founder of Havson Group.
A burning passion for improving and growing the Malaysian games industry drove former film director and game design lecturer Havene to initially kickstart Mediasoft Entertainment in 2012 together with another founder Rayson Wong. During his time as a lecturer, Havene saw numerous young talented individuals leaving the country to seek opportunities overseas or quit the gaming industry altogether due to a lack of opportunities.
Taking matters into their own hands, Havene and Rayson wanted to create those very opportunities, develop those talents and contribute back to the local gaming ecosystem. This passion for talent development saw Mediasoft winning the best employer award in 2015 awarded by KWSP Malaysia.
No stranger to virtual worlds, Kee who has extensive experience in film and games, elaborates on Havson’s insights, “We see this market growing very rapidly in the next few quarters. Besides the growing consumer demand for richer VR experience via malls, we see Hollywood studios and big game companies with IPs entering this space, and, naturally, they are looking for strategic partners to work with.”
This market demand sees Havson Group joining other major competitive players around the world in capturing the global market share. These competitors include The Void, a Hyper-Reality experience gaming centre based in Utah, New York and Dubai. Zero Latency is another immersive VR studio based in Melbourne, Australia which received a total of USD9.5M to date in seed and venture funding from Carthona Capital.
Other players include Dreamscape Immersive which plans to open a VR Multiplex in Los Angeles later this year. Dreamscape has raised USD11M in funding in a round led by Bold Capital. Imax too, has said it plans to open six VR centers in partnership with AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment, and additional centers planned for Britain and China as well as projects in Japan, the Middle East and Western Europe.
With competition mounting globally in the US, Australia and other parts of Asia, Havson Group’s years of gaming experience and understanding of the Southeast Asian and other regional markets is what they see as their first movers competitive edge.
Others have seen it too with demands for partnerships increasing. Havson Group has already signed partnerships in Pakistan and ShenZhen, China and are currently in discussion with numerous major theme parks and resorts across the region. With interest in VR mounting, Havson Group plans to cement its hold within the region, ahead of the competition.
Managing Partner of 500 Startups, Khailee Ng said that investing in Havson Group was not only in line with their goal to recognize promising startups in Southeast Asia and assist them in growing on a global level, Khailee injects that Havson Group is one of the corporations that has the potential of fast pace growth with the help of technology.
“Having invested in 1,700 Startups in over 60 countries, we’ve built an international platform for startups like Havson to rapidly enter multiple markets at speed. Their business model involves malls paying upfront for rollouts, and generates ongoing profit share. It’s a very capital efficient way to build a global business. Just the kind of business we like!” said Khailee.
With future plans involving Southeast Asia, China and the US, Havson Group of companies is strongly focused on the booming VR market.
“We have the right talented individuals who are brave for new challenges, we can have the right technology along with the skilled software to create a product on par, we have the resources that can push us far, it is undeniable that Havson has the track record that can create another new height,” added Rayson Wong, Founding Partner of Havson Group.
About Havson Group: Havson Group builds VR contents and provides VR tech solutions to FEC, theme parks and shopping malls.
Children’s storytelling startup Kaishu Story, otherwise known as Kaishu Jianggushi in Chinese has raised RMB 90 million (about US$13 million) for its Series B funding round.
New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc., one of the largest private educational services in China led the investment.
The round also saw the participation from Chinese growth capital firm Trustbridge Partners, Shanghai-listed Zhejiang Daily Digital Culture Group and iResearch Capital.
Kaishu Story was launched by former CCTV host Wang Kai and represents a children’s content brand focusing on children’s stories, with additional products such as audio series and online parenting courses.
To date, the platform has expanded to a total of 2,033 audiobooks which amounts to 23,363 minutes played over 1.5 billion times. Some of the titles include “Kaishu’s Journey to the West”, “Little Prince”, and “Kaishu’s 365 nights”, to name a few.
The startup claims that it has six million users on its content platform through a WeChat public account, a mobile app and audio shows. It targets to generate the revenue of RMB200 million (about US$29 million) in 2017.
Kaishu will use the latest capital to build a national children’s brand, investing in a wider range of product development related to children’s content and moving on to the parenting industry.
“We are making memories, memories of the people,” said Wang Kai. “We hope that through us, every little kid from the age of two can start building on happy childhood memories.”
This funding round comes in lieu with the emergence of a new generation of content and knowledge-sharing platforms in China that have sparked investor enthusiasm.
In January, Q&A knowledge sharing platform Zhihu has raised US$100 million in a Series D round. While Shanghai Bajiulin, a new media and knowledge sharing startup founded by well-known Chinese financial writer Wu Xiaobo also raised RMB 160 million (about US$23 million) in the same month.
Online media startup Boombastis has recently secured an undisclosed pre-Series A funding from Unistellar, a venture development and advisory firm which pulls funds from Southeast Asian high-net-worth individuals and institutions.
Based in Jakarta, Unistellar help entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level by providing practice knowledge, strategic direction, talent management, and relevant business network to accelerate the growth of their business partners.
Boombastis is Unistellar’s first media company that was successfully launched in 2014. Since its site went live, the startup has accumulated a total of 16.9 million page views and a proclaimed 4 million users per month.
The online media platform grew the traffic on the basis of creating viral content which targets the Indonesian Alay market, that is in reference to the audiences in the middle to lower tier of the market which has a size of over 30 million.
Besides viral content, the site also delivers informative content as well including lifestyle tips.
The startup has also been operating on a very lean cost. According to Pascal Sembel, the managing partner of Unistellar, “the editorial team consists of only four full-time employees. The rest are freelancing contributors whom we are paying per article.”
“Barrier to entry in this sector is very low. It’s so easy to become a media entrepreneur these days,” said Nendra Rengganis, the CEO of Boombastis. “But only content business is not profitable, you need to come up with different revenue streams.”
Rengganis further explained, “some have started to create their own communities, launching their own product or setting up merchandise stores. That is one of the ways to maintain independence.”
In this aspect, Boombastis will introduce a string of new features, including what it calls a new kind of news, infotainment, and Youth Muslim Media. Moreover, with the fresh capital, the startup expects to reach a break-even point in the next three to six months.
Boombastis currently competes with Kumparan, Brillo, Hipwee, IDNtimes, Malesbanget.com, Baca, and many others in the attempt to dominate the pop-culture driven millennial market segment in Indonesia.
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media
YunXueTang, an employee training platform announced on Tuesday that it had raised US$22 million in a series B funding led by venture capital firm SIG, with participation from Chinese investor Li Qi.
This follows the startup’s previous funding round in 2014 from China’s Everest Venture which was worth RMB 80 million (about US$11 million).
YunXueTang is a learning management system (LMS) for employees.
The platform provides a range of services from exams to learning materials for medium and large size companies, including fields from real estate, banking, insurance, and retail.
Its products also include a learning platform for companies to create their own teaching materials, in addition to a video conferencing mobile app.
The company was founded in December 2011 by Lu Ruize, operating on a BaaS (Business-as-a-Service) model which places emphasis on content and consulting services for enterprises.
At present, the company has over 1 200 lecturers providing more than 2 000 courses for over 300 000 companies. Its customers include China Mobile Ltd, Lenovo Group Ltd., and traditional Chinese pharmaceutical company TongRenTang.
The company also claims to have recorded a revenue of RMB 100 million (about US$14 million) last year.
“Currently, a dozen of European and U.S. employee training companies have issued IPOs,” said Guo Lu, a partner at SIG. “In Europe and US, the industry is well-developed and highly penetrated, but in China, despite a 15 percent annual growth rate, the industry still focuses on providing offline services while online services are in the early stage.”
The reason for this investment, Guo Lu further adds is that YunXueTang presents the opportunity to integrate online and offline resources.
It operates on a forward-looking mindset, market accumulation, as well as an elite team which makes him believes that the company has what it takes to make it in the subversive training industry.
Meanwhile, the startup plans to use the fresh capital to improve the platform’s content, enhance consultancy services and build a sales team.
“The next step for YunXueTang is to compile its own accumulated data, and to develop in the direction of high-quality knowledge content providers,” said Lu Ruize.
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media
Transforming the fashion industry by using AI, Omnious – a Korean fashion image recognition startup recently revealed that it has received a total of 1 billion won (about US$885K) in investments from Korea Investment Partners on January 9th.
This investment comes in as a Series A funding. As last year, Omnious has received a 300 million won (about US$265K) in seed investment from Mashup Angels and Big Basin Capital.
Jeong Hwa-Mok, the Head of Korea Investment Partners which led this fundraising round said, “Omnious has the highest level of technical expertise in the Deep-learning based image recognition field and a good teamwork. We expect the company to further develop its value chain in the industry after this investment.”
But apart from machine learning which is gradually expanding into more industries, Omnious is also leveraging on two other trends which include the rise of mobile commerce and the influence of social media on fashion and culture.
Riding on these waves, the startup has developed a fashion tech app that lets users shop an outfit by simply uploading an image from a social media post, newsfeed or photos they have taken on their phone.
Their proprietary algorithm then uses visual search and image recognition technology to analyse various fashion attributes ranging from images to items, colors, forms, shapes, details, prints, and materials etc., to search for similarities between different product images and return the precise match or similar options based on the user’s catalog.
At present, Omnious’s database has accumulated more than 2.8 million fashion images. In which it plans to use 800,000 fashion images as training datasets to develop an image recognition solution that automatically tags and classifies fashion images. Ultimately, it aims to create an image search engine that enables users to find similar product information quickly and accurately.
“As consumers needs are increasingly personalized, we will provide better customer experience and customized solutions through establishing strong connections with fashion and commerce companies that are interested in using the AI technology,” said Omnious CEO Jeon Jae-Young.
Omnious also aims to become a global image recognition AI solution company, to bring the benefits of image recognition, or computer vision not only into the world of fashion, but various industries. Additionally, the company said that it plans to flip the commercialization switch for their service later this year.
By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media