Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Crowdtivate Unveils 12 Asia-based Projects for Crowdfunding

Do you wanna fund a start-up?

If so, good news! StarHub's Crowdtivate - an Asian-focused crowdfunding platform launched in April this year - now has 12 Asia-based projects available for support. As a rewards-based platform, Crowdtivate mandates that listed projects should provide different levels of rewards for funders of differing quantums, with a minimum sum of S$5. Often, funders will enjoy a special "early bird" price for a new product as its backers.

Spanning the three categories of creative works, digital technology and assistive technology, 5 of the projects are world-firsts. They are a mechanical smartwatch hybrid, a standalone device that works with air conditioners to save energy and ensure comfort, an electricity-free bamboo speaker for mobile phones, a mobile app that allows mobile users to use the main camera of their phones for selfies (SaySelfie), and a device which "hijacks" a vehicle driver's FM radio to alert driver that a cyclist/jogger is nearby (Radio Bike Lane).

Three other projects are firsts in Asia. They include a wearable fashionable device that sends out emergency signals with the push of a button, and a smartphone input app for stroke survivors.

Sharing at the launch, StarHub i3 (Innovation, Investment, Incubation) Head Stephen Lee shared that they have received some 400 proposals since the platform's launch in April. Over a three-month period, the StarHub team together with their partners to seive through the projects, curate them and assist participating entrepreneurs in their marketing and promotional campaigns.

To further expand their reach in the Asian market, StarHub inked a deal with Indosat - one of Indonesia's largest telecommunications services provider. Through this partnership, both telcos hope to grow and support the fledgling ecosystem of crowdfunded enterprises in the area of marketing, mentoring and funding.

Let us shine the spotlight on some of the more interesting projects.


Designed to increase the security of your loved ones, WaryBee allows you to call for help at the push of a button. Once activated, the device sends an SMS to your loved ones which provides information such as your location as well as a number to call. This device is available in various colours (see below) and can be embedded into jewellery to make it fashionable and indistinguishable to a potential "attacker".

Targeted amount to be raised: S$50,000.

Ambi Climate

Considered the "star" of the crowdfunded projects, Ambi Climate by Hong Kong based entrepreneur Julia Lee is touted to be world's first standalone device which pairs with a home air conditioner unit to deliver predictive and personalised comfort to occupants. Apparently, this helps to save between 10% to 30% of energy!

You can see how the device looks like below.

Working with any indoor air conditioner so long as they have an infra-red controlled remote controller, the device helps to adjust the indoor temperature in a graduated manner (like an intelligent thermostat). It also has the ability to monitor ambient room temperature and modify the air flow and temperature accordingly. 

Targeted amount to be raised: S$50,000.

Kairos Watches

Another world's first, Kairos Watches is a mechanical smart watch hybrid. It combines a traditional mechanical watch (complete with "hands" and chronometers) with the smart technologies available in mobile computing. While the technology behind smart watches which are linked to your smartphones isn't particularly new, the novelty in this gadget is probably its "coolness" factor as you can see below. 

Targeted amount to be raised: S$20,000.

iBam 2 Singapore Edition

My personal favourite, the iBam is yet another world's first. Inspired by the kampongs (villages) in Indonesia and its traditional musical instrument the angklung, the iBam 2 combines ethics, aesthetics and natural engineering. Designed by Muhammed Ibnur Rashad of the Ground Up Initiative, this compact electricity-free bamboo speaker works with any mobile phone.

In the photo below, you can see a slide on how the iBam 2 helps to support disadvantaged families (like single mothers) and village communities in Indonesia.  

A second photo with Ibnur Rashad showing how a mobile phone can sit snugly in the iBam 2 speaker. Having heard the speaker in action, I must say that it was pretty impressive. I am certainly going to place my dollar in this - especially since it is waterproof and battery-free!

Targeted amount to be raised: to be determined.

Ruby Chen's Album "Life's Precious"

Finally, the lead vocalist of local group Singapore Char Siew Bao Ruby Chen seeks to raise enough funds for her first Mandarin album. Semi-finalist in local talent competition "One Moment of Glory", Singapore Char Siew Bao performs regularly at venues like Hood Bar and Cafe, Jewelbox, Fivebar and Da Paolo. You can check out their music from their YouTube channel here.

Targeted amount to be raised: S$15,000.

How To Support These Projects

To support these (and other) projects from Crowdtivate, do sign up for a free account or log in with your Facebook or Linkedin user ID and password to browse projects. Contributions are made through PayPal or major credit cards.

To date, some $5,468 has been raised from a total of 32 supporters. With 49 days left to the end of the campaign period for the first batch of 12 projects, I am sure that these entrepreneurs will do their utmost to raise the amounts needed for their campaigns.

Depending on the response from backers, Crowdtivate may provide additional support in terms of business incubation, access to test users, marketing support, infrastructure support and other areas of development. 

For more information, do check out Crowdtivate today!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living a Limitless Life (Book Review)

Nick Vujicic is a man on a global mission. And boy is he creating waves wherever he goes.

At the tender age of 31, Nick is a motivational guru, evangelist, and author of several bestselling books. A celebrated speaker, he gets invitations to speak from all over the world - Australia (Melbourne was his childhood home), Europe, US, China, India, Africa, and South East Asia (including Singapore).  He is also an avid swimmer, surfer, sky diver, and actor.

The most amazing thing, however, is that he accomplishes all of this despite being born without limbs. Afflicted with the ultra rare tetra-amelia syndrome, Nick overcame severe disability and depression (he once harboured suicidal thoughts) to become a living testimony to many. As a committed Christian and a minister, Nick has also spread God's message of love and hope to many, and brought light in a world full of darkness.

Subtitled Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life, Vujicic's bestselling book Life Without Limits is part autobiography part motivation. Chronicling various episodes of his life - childhood, teenage, to adulthood - the book's inspiring chapters weaves personal heartfelt stories with valuable life lessons. They cover topics like purpose, hope, faith, self-acceptance, attitude, courage, managing change, relationships, failure, opportunity seeking, risk and giving.

With a wickedly disarming sense of self-deprecating humour (pun un-intended), Nick candidly revealed how his physical handicap compelled him to be bold and to speak confidently to adults and other kids when he was young. Because of his uniqueness, he is able to touch the lives of many who are drawn to his universal messages of living beyond life's limits.

Most of Nick's life lessons are simple to understand but difficult to master. They cover universal themes like persevering over immense odds, being optimistic in all situations, overcoming change in one's life, and displaying empathy in whatever one does.

Let me share some of the "quotable quotes" from his bestselling book:

On Self-Acceptance - "Instead of dwelling on your imperfections, your failings, or your mistakes, focus on your blessings, and the contributions you can make, whether it's a talent, knowledge, wisdom, creativity, hard work, or nurturing a soul."

On Attitude - "You and I may have absolutely no control over what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. If we choose the right attitude, we can rise above whatever challenges we face... Optimism is empowering - it gives you control over your emotions. Pessimism weakens your will and allows your moods to control your actions."

On Opportunity - "To pursue your dreams you have to take action. Move it or lose it. Act or be acted upon. If you don't have what you want, consider creating what you want."

In my opinion, the most moving story was the one where Nick worked with his parents and siblings to device innovative contraptions to allow him to live a more independent life. It is staggering how tasks as simple as taking a shower, visiting the toilet, brushing teeth, and changing clothes can be such a challenge for somebody like Nick. My heart also leaped with joy when I read how he managed to achieve mobility via a motorised wheelchair which he can operate with his left foot (affectionately named as his "chicken drumstick").

The greatest takeaway for me was the lesson on giving. Nick actually praised God when he learned that 150,000 copies of his DVDs were illegally made and sold in Indonesia. This was because he cared more about people hearing his message than about making profits.

I was also touched by how he gave away $20,000 of his meagre savings when he made a mission trip to South Africa, and provided orphanages with presents for kids, books, blankets and beds despite having very little then.

Life Without Limits is highly recommended for anybody seeking to find meaning, purpose and hope in their lives. While not all of us could lead "ridiculously good" lives like Nick Vujicic, there are invaluable lessons in the book which we can draw from. Ultimately, the most important thing in life is to have faith and trust in God, our loved ones and ourselves wherever we may be.

Exclusive 15% Book Discount for Cooler Insight Readers!

Enjoy an exclusive 15% discount when you purchase Life Without Limits or any other quality books at NOQ Store. Simply key in the discount code INSIGHTS in the 'Voucher or Promotion Code' tab during the checkout.

NOQ Store offers more than 14 million titles, a lowest price guarantee (before discounts!), and free delivery (in Singapore) for purchases above S$25. Folks who join their mailing list as members will receive a complimentary S$5 e-voucher in their birthday month. Happy shopping at NOQ Store!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Public Relations in the Social Age

Courtesy of Hispanic PR Blog

Are you a public relations professional? If so, do you see yourself as a...

A) purveyor of the corporate spiel, coated with sugar, spice and everything nice?

B) hustler for significant editorial coverage on newspapers, television news and magazines?

C) guardian of your organisation's corporate image and brand?

D) spokesperson, communicator and messenger?

Well we certainly perform all of the above roles. And much much more.

Folks in public relations, public affairs, or corporate communications have traditionally upheld the public image of the organisations we're entrusted with. Gatekeepers to key executives, we endeavour to promote our organisations, protect their reputations, and preserve their public image. This can be as strategic as deciding what words our CEOs should say or as operational as ironing the skirting of a press conference table an hour before the event.

Unfortunately, PR has suffered a lot of negative backlash in recent years. The openness, transparency and sheer speed of digital social networks and cyber vigilantes have kicked sand in the faces of many PR practitioners. Many have been accused of being out-of-touch with the man-on-the-ground or living in ivory towers, blissfully unaware of the real sentiments of their respective publics.

In the age of ubiquitous mobile and social networks, PR practitioners need to be more than just the cleanly scrubbed face of the organisation. Our role isn't just to guard the gates to the corporate kingdom. Rather, we need to build bridges to our communities and serve as the public's advocate and internal champion. In a sense, PR needs to evolve from pulpit preaching to street evangelism.

How can you make this happen?

For a start, consider eschewing the silk gloves of perpetual political correctness and start speaking like humans. Use conversational tones to explain to journalists, bloggers, customers and other stakeholders why certain things were done the way they were. Engage in dialogues - not monologues. At the end of the day, your organisation has the best interests of your stakeholders at heart (if it doesn't, it may be time for you to seek your fortunes elsewhere).

Where possible, be candid in explaining why certain things are the way they are rather than enshrouding your answers with mystery. Don't answer in riddles - you are not the Sphinx! If you cannot provide the information because of competitive or security reasons, say so.

Seek to build up and connect with your communities. Form relationships with like-minded folks who have an interest in what your organisation does. Keep them regularly updated through email newsletters, web updates or Facebook posts. Show an interest in what they are keen in.

Listen more and talk less. There are numerous social media monitoring tools out there like JamiQ, Brandtology, or just plain old Google Alerts which allows you to do so. Get your radar out there to find out what people are saying.

Participate in selective conversations without being creepy. Instead of completely ignoring all online buzz about your organisation, seek to engage your influencers. Show them that you're listening, caring and responding. If bandwidth permits, connect with anybody who has blogged, tweeted, or spoken about your organisation online.

Launch interactive platforms to share your stories. These can be on social networks, offline events, email newsletters, online forums, and others. The key thing here is to actively solicit inputs and comments from your stakeholders so that it becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue.

Be super responsive and speedy. Nobody is going to wait until your press conference tomorrow to find out why your plant exploded, or how two workers were killed. Instead, employ platforms like Twitter, Facebook or blogs to share breaking news and rolling updates as soon as you have them.

Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, you must hone our ability to tell enchanting stories. Share home-baked videos, photos, and behind-the-scenes articles of what's cooking. Create content that not only appeals to your head honchos but your other audiences, meshing education, entertainment and engagement in an attractive package. This also means that anybody who needs to appear in front of a camera should be a warm and vivacious storyteller - not a cold and unfeeling suit!

How else should PR practitioners evolve in the social and digital age?