IPHatch winner: competition ‘gives start-ups an immediate technology edge’
Alexander Ying, founder and CEO of AI fitness company DRESIO – and one of the winners of the IPHatch Hong Kong Competition 2019/20, discusses the key takeaways from his IPHatch experience
Describe how your company has developed since winning the IPHatch competition
I have to say that winning the IPHatch competition has been one of the greatest turning points for our company, DRESIO. The most memorable thing is that before the final pitching for IPHatch, we were able to join the IPHatchathon event, and present our idea to mentors from IPHatch. They have helped us fine-tune our idea to best match the patents we are competing for, build a new business model together, and give us feedback. After that, we even pivoted our product, industry focus and tweaked our whole business model which got us where we are right now.
Since winning the IPHatch competition, DRESIO is starting fresh and has been focusing on developing a fitness app that merges the methodology patents originated from Nokia, our camera-based vision AI and exercise science research to detect exercise skill levels and prevent injury for users to enjoy personal training at home.
It is inexpensive, personalised, and rewarding. You just need your phone or laptop, no special equipment. When you are doing exercise following the fitness video on our app with the front-facing camera facing you, our app determines your skill level, automatically adjusts intensity level for each exercise programme based on the user’s performance detected by the AI, and gives you feedback. Also, with AI detection, our app knows if you have actually completed any exercise and rewards you with loyalty points that you can redeem on perks from our healthy lifestyle partners. As a result, you get much more out of your workout and are likely to set a higher goal.
DRESIO is partnering with a publicly listed tech company in Hong Kong SAR to co-launch the app. Our company is developing the app and owning the technology IP while our partner is providing localised fitness video content and handling distribution and branding of the app. The app will be bundled with some of our partner’s current digital product packages and it will allow us to reach over a million potential users at launch. It is expected to be launched in early Q1 2022.
How was your experience as a part of the competition and what were your key takeaways?
I think the key thing about our IPHatch experience is that we view IPHatch as a long-term partnership opportunity instead of just a pure start-up competition. Since IPHatch has expanded into more and more countries and there are more than 30 winning start-ups so far, there are a lot of opportunities for us to meet new people, establish partnerships, get investment and expand to new markets and regions via the IPHatch ecosystem.
We even got featured in various media channels and press coverage continuously. In fact, one of our current biggest clients/partners, which is one of the biggest publicly listed tech companies in Hong Kong SAR with over 20,000 employees, found us via one of the IPHatch news articles featuring our company.
What kind of challenges did you face adapting amid the pandemic over the last year?
We founded DRESIO just a couple of months before the pandemic started. At first, we were not focusing on fitness, but trying to apply vision AI to make interactive internet of things (IoT) technology for the retail industry. We had proof of concepts and potential retail brand customers lining up in early 2020.
Yet, the pandemic changes everything from budget frozen from our customer side to some customers retrieving their investment in the region. It had us rethink our plan which led us to join the IPHatch journey.
Describe how competition-related benefits such as mentorship and networking have helped you on your journey?
Since IPHatch has expanded into more and more countries and there are more than 30 winning start-ups so far, there are a lot of opportunities for us to meet new people, establish partnerships, get investment and expand to new markets and regions via the IPHatch ecosystem.
Whenever we have some questions on a certain area or need advice on expansion to other countries, Piece Future, the organiser of IPHatch, is always there to provide support or connect us to the right people. They also regularly connect us with venture capital funds for potential investment opportunities.
What advice would you give to fellow SMEs/start-ups who enter the competition?
IPHatch is unlike any other competition. It is a doorway to something even bigger and winning the competition means there will be big changes to your company. The judges are not just looking for the greatest idea, but also: the idea that could make good use of the patents; the team that could embrace the changes ahead; and a start-up that could maintain a two-way relationship with them in the long run.
SMEs/start-ups, who entered the competition, should prepare themselves in this way in order to secure a higher chance of winning.
What are the key challenges for technology start-ups in Hong Kong SAR?
Hong Kong SAR’s start-up landscape is very much like a 7-11 convenience store, and not just any store, but one that is in the subway/metro station. Start-ups are the novelty products trying to get on the shelf, and investors/customers are those people who come and go very quickly looking for products they are familiar with the most.
Start-ups need to do everything they can to get on the shelf and stand out. In fact, one of the most effective ways is securing technology IP. Yet, securing a patent takes quite a lot of time, effort, and resources. Hence, the rise of IPHatch is a great opportunity and gives start-ups an immediate technology edge. We are also seeing a growing number of technology start-ups standing out in Hong Kong SAR involving patent technology transfer from local universities.
What potential other legislative/regulatory changes are on the horizon that you think will have a big impact on your region?
In Hong Kong SAR, physiotherapy patients have to seek a doctor’s referral before meeting a physiotherapist for treatment. There have been regulatory change discussions for years to allow patients to go to physiotherapists directly without seeing a doctor first, and there is a high chance that this will pass in the near future. It will also lower the barriers and open up opportunities for tele-physiotherapy and remote musculoskeletal care solutions.
As we are seeing the population is aging and the demand for healthcare services in Hong Kong SAR from people living in mainland China remains high, I believe such change will greatly benefit the region.
What are the next steps for your company?
Looking ahead, we are planning to expand our technology use-cases from leisure and general fitness to gaming, social welfare improvement, health risk assessment, and tele-physiotherapy. We are constantly talking to partners from different industries including gaming companies, insurance companies, and hospitals, who are interested in using our technology to create a new way of living.
Our company is also looking to replicate our success in Hong Kong SAR and expand into other Southeast Asia countries by partnering with local strategic partners on localised solutions and content creation.
A look ahead at the Business of IP Asia Forum 2021
Capturing market trends through Business of IP Asia Forum (December 2-3 2021)
With the theme ‘Unleashing Innovation for Sustainability and Growth’, the 11th BIP Asia Forum brings together IP professionals and business leaders to discuss the latest developments in the IP world.
The keynote session will feature Gautier Engisch of P&G and participants will gain fruitful insights from IP experts from Ricoh, Midea, Nokia Technologies and Microsoft at the plenary session. The Global Tech Summit will explore disruptive technologies by Nokia Bell Labs, Animoca Brands and molecular spirits start-up Endless West.
The fourth edition of the IPHatch Hong Kong will be announced during the BIP Asia Forum.
Register now at: https://bipasia.hktdc.com/en/s/fp-Onlineregistration