Smart-up – The rise of Start-ups in global smart cities

Victor Wong of UBM SES

Gone are the days when only Apple, Sony and Microsoft dominated the technology sector. Now, as disruptive technologies continue their winning streak, start-ups around the world are basking in glory.

Many of these start-ups have blossomed into “unicorns”– private companies valued at US$1 billion or more, says Victor Wong, project director of Communications Events at UBM SES, organiser of CommunicAsia and EnterpriseIT. Enhancing creativity and increasing employment, the billion-dollar start-up business once existed only in a dream, yet is now more possible than ever.

The future for start-ups is bright across the world. Singapore – the start-up hub of Southeast Asia – saw a sharp rise in funding from US$53.1 million per year to US$199 million per year, in the first quarter of 2016. The United Kingdom, which is home to the top start-up city in the world – London – has already had 154,364 start-up businesses registered this year, according to stats by StartUp Britain, a Government-backed national initiative to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs find success.

Despite significant challenges in today’s highly competitive world, the demand for disruptive technology is increasing as more and more businesses strive to be five steps ahead of the competition. Similarly, start-ups have begun sprouting up everywhere to tackle community and business issues, especially in relation to Smart Cities.

The “Smart City” is almost a start-up concept in itself; thousands of innovations have come together over the past few years to develop city growth and integrate IoT and ICT solutions into the urban environment. City growth increases opportunities for its citizens and therefore start-ups are essential and offer an enormous opportunity to bring new technologies and ideas to cities to help solve challenges such as health, energy and transportation.

From home-based entrepreneurs to technology hubs, the term ‘Start-Up’ can refer to many forms of companies hoping to be the next tech giant. Changing the world one disruptive technology at a time sounds like a bold move, but it is something the newest of companies are doing, incorporating Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud, Cyber-Security and Virtual Reality technologies to tackle the challenges brought upon by urban development.

For the first time, CommunicAsia will dedicate an entire zone to start-ups. Coined Disrupt+, the zone will feature Startup Alley comprising more than 30 companies, including Hong Kong-based Ambi Climate, an AI-powered air conditioning smart solution that adjusts to your preferences for the ideal temperature. Singapore start-up GleeMatic lets businesses outsource their tedious tasks to software robots, who work alongside people to complete tasks that free up the employees time for more value added work.

Finland’s PLUGIT, a leading provider of turn-key charging and sustainable energy solutions, takes care of the development, design, installation, management and maintenance of electric charging systems for their customers.

Disrupt+ will also stage the Singapore leg of Seedstars World, the world’s biggest international start-up competition. The winner of Seedstars Singapore will receive an all-inclusive one-week trip to Switzerland to compete at the Seedstars Summit for up to US$500,000 equity investment.

Without start-ups, a ‘Smart Future’ wouldn’t be on our doorstep. The “unicorn” goal is a great one but not always realistic, and tech companies should not put their entire aim in immediate growth, but in stability and continuing to be profitable in the long run, as start-up success is not slowing down anytime soon.

The author of this blog is Victor Wong project director of Communications Events at UBM SES, organiser of CommunicAsia and EnterpriseIT.

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