When it comes to consumer technology, Asia’s Forbes 30 Under 30 young entrepreneurs are on the forefront of developing new apps–from those for edtech t0 dating. Interest in Web3 apps is also increasing and these entrepreneurs are catering to that as well.
Anticipating the rise of the metaverse, 27-year-old Risa Feng cofounded BUD in 2019 to enhance the new social experiences. Users of this free app can create and exchange 3D content, such as cuddly avatars and objects, in a drag-and-drop fashion. They can also make friends, chat with each other and start online battles in a recently added survivor mode.
Following the app’s launch last October, Feng quickly rolled out BUD in app stores around the world. She declines to disclose active user numbers, but the app was downloaded 12.5 million times from Google Play and Apple’s App Stores worldwide, according to analytics platform Sensor Tower. “From text to pictures then to videos, every generation has its preferred medium,” she says. “Then why can’t 3D interactive content become the mainstream media platform for the next generation?”
“Why can’t 3D interactive content become the mainstream media platform for the next generation?”
China-born Feng has the expertise to take BUD further. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Cornell University, she joined Snap in the U.S. in 2017 as an engineer with the augmented reality team. She worked on many of the messaging app’s popular filters, including a gender-swapping one. Together with Shawn Lin, a former Snap colleague, she spent almost two years honing BUD. The pair then convinced investors including GGV Capital and Qiming Venture Partners to commit $15 million to BUD’s series A+ round in February, followed by a series B round led by Sequoia India in May that raised nearly $37 million. The startup, which now works from China’s Shenzhen tech hub, will establish its headquarters in Singapore later this year. It says the fresh funds will be used for international expansion.
Fellow 30 Under 30 Asia listees Jeth Lorenz Ang, Renz Carlo Chong and Nicolo Alfonso Odulio are also tapping into the rising metaverse wave. The trio cofounded BreederDAO, a Philippine’s startup specializing in breeding and crafting NFT characters and game items to be used in play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity, Sipher, Cyball and Crabada. It charges players or game guilds to create the desired traits for the playable NFT to win the game. In January, just two months after its launch, BreederDAO raised $10 million in series A funding through a token sale co-led by Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z and Delphi Digital.
Edtech is another area where Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia listees are innovating. In Hong Kong, Nixon Chan and Sarah Tong’s the Big Bang Academy teaches STEM subjects to children ages 3 to 8 through its app, online classes and in-person centers. So far, they claim they have reached over 10,000 children in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and have 4,000 recurring students and subscribers.
India’s Harshit Awasthi, Ahmad Faraaz and Sashakt Tripathi are also offering STEM education through their startup, Kalam Labs. The trio are building a STEM metaverse for kids aged 6 to 14. Backed by investors including Lightspeed India, GSV Capital, and Y Combinator, their Kalam Labs leverages live multiplayer gaming where children attend live streams in a virtual world to learn science topics.
Focusing on adult education, serial entrepreneurs and college friends, Nishant Chandra and Siddharth Maheshwari cofounded Bangalore-based Newton School in 2019. The company prepares students for jobs with technology companies. It focuses on millions of students from second- and third-tier Indian cities and graduates who lack industry skills. With mentors from Google, Microsoft and Uber, Newton runs a six-month program and claims to have more than 200 companies hiring its students. In February, it raised a $5 million series A round led by RTP Global followed by a $25 million Series B led by Steadview Capital in May.
Dating Apps 2.0
Taking varying cultural norms into consideration, young Indian entrepreneurs on the list are creating their own versions of dating apps.
Hardik Bansal, Harsh Vardhan Chhangani and Bhanu Pratap Singh Tanwar’s FRND aims to provide a new dating experience. Established in 2019, the startup operates an audio dating and social discovery app targeted at the India and other South Asian markets. The platform has over five million registered users and offers the service in about 10 Indian languages. In December 2021, FRND raised $6.5 million in a Series A round led by South Korean video-game maker Krafton and existing investors India Quotient and Elevation Capital.
With safety in mind, Jhansi Elango cofounded Bangalore-based social networking platform HumBee to help users meet anonymously online and get to know each other. HumBee claims it’s safer than existing dating apps since users, especially women, often face privacy concerns, stalkers and societal judgment. It had over 25,000 users within weeks of launching, and 60% are women from small towns or conservative backgrounds. Funded by investors including Y-Combinator, the platform wants to expand to regions such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia.