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Why Google For Startups’ APAC Head Sees Big Progress Potential For AI Startups In Asia


In his position overseeing Google’s startup help arm in Asia-Pacific, Mike Kim sees promising progress alternatives for AI startups within the area, due to authorities help for the more and more vital know-how, a deep expertise pool and in-a-hurry inhabitants, amongst different elements.


The impatience of Asia’s Millennials and Gen Zers is one in all many explanation why Mike Kim, the top of Google for Startups Asia-Pacific, sees robust progress potential for synthetic intelligence startups within the area.

“Younger individuals in Asia need issues now,” says Kim in a video interview by way of Google Meet. “AI permits individuals to, on the contact of a button, have entry to a number of the finest assets, whether or not it’s in well being or finance. That’s why individuals are so enthusiastic about this know-how.”

Kim is aware of all too properly about Asia’s want for pace. He grew up in Silicon Valley and labored within the U.S. for a few decade at tech corporations like LinkedIn and mobile-game maker Zynga. Then in late 2014, Kim, a Korean-American, relocated to Seoul to affix Woowa Brothers, South Korea’s high food-delivery startup, seeing first-hand the nation’s fast-paced tradition. “We name it ‘ppalli-ppalli’ [culture] in Korea,” says Kim, which suggests “fast, fast” in Korean.

Two years later, Kim joined Google for Startups as Asia-Pacific partnerships supervisor. He was promoted to Asia-Pacific head of Google for Startups a 12 months later and relocated to Singapore, one other vibrant startup hub in Asia, the place Google has its regional headquarters. In his position overseeing Google’s startup help arm in Asia-Pacific, Kim sees promising progress alternatives for AI startups within the area, due to authorities help for the more and more vital know-how, a deep expertise pool and in-a-hurry inhabitants, amongst different elements.

Kim factors to Seoul-based AI For Pet for instance of a fast-growing AI startup within the Asia-Pacific. Based simply three years in the past by Euna Hur, AI For Pet operates a smartphone app that may detect eye and pores and skin illnesses in cats and canine by utilizing the telephone’s digicam and AI algorithms. The startup is engaged on increasing its diagnostic capabilities to incorporate gum illness and joint abnormalities.

“Do you wish to go to the vet, get in line and wait a couple of hours to—possibly in 24 hours—see why your canine is sick, or a fast one-minute photograph of your canine at residence and get solutions?,” says Kim. Multiple million samples of imaging information, labeled by veterinary consultants, have been used to develop AI For Pet’s AI fashions, in keeping with the startup.

AI For Pet has already raised a number of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in funding from buyers that embody state-owned Industrial Financial institution of Korea, Korea Asset Funding Securities and POSTECH Holdings, an accelerator backed by Pohang College of Science and Expertise, one in all South Korea’s high know-how universities. Final 12 months the startup graduated from Shinhan Sq. Bridge Incheon, a startup help program backed by South Korea’s Shinhan Monetary Group, the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups, the Incheon Metropolis authorities and Korean billionaire Website positioning Jung-jin’s drugmaker Celltrion. And earlier this month, AI For Pet graduated from Google for Startups’ Cloud Academy, a three-month program the place startups obtain mentorship and coaching on information evaluation and machine studying, amongst others.

Asia’s quickly getting older inhabitants is one more reason why Kim is optimistic about AI startups. In keeping with a 2019 United Nations report, the area is residence to the seven fastest-aging populations on the earth: South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Macau, Maldives, Thailand and Hong Kong. Japan already has the world’s oldest inhabitants—a title it has held for the reason that mid-2000s.

By 2040, the Asia-Pacific area can be residence to greater than half of the world’s aged inhabitants (65 and over), in accordance to analysis agency Euromonitor. “Whereas Japan will stay the world’s oldest nation with the best share of 65-plus inhabitants by 2040, South Korea and Singapore will emerge within the checklist of the highest 5 oldest nations, pushed by a long time of low fertility charges,” Euromonitor stated in a report.

“When you will have getting older populations like Korea and Japan that must lean in direction of extra {hardware} and robotics, the know-how or software program contained in the robotic is leveraging AI,” says Kim. “AI can help an organization when there’s not sufficient individuals to rent. So nations which can be going through a large demographic cliff are going to leverage AI much more as a result of they want it.”

Latona in Japan helps corporations just do that. The Tokyo-based startup supplies AI-powered {hardware} and software program that helps automate and digitize processes. In December 2020, Latona launched an AI-powered app referred to as OMOTE-Bako that digitizes front- and back-end processes for accommodations and ryokans (conventional Japanese inns), comparable to reservations and checking in. Final 12 months, the startup obtained about $10 million in investments from billionaire Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Corp. and Japanese asset supervisor Sparx Group.

Latona is led by CEO Kyoko Otawa, who cofounded the startup in 2018 after stints as a know-how and finance guide at IT consulting agency Accenture and a guide at billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani’s Japanese e-commerce large Rakuten. In 2020, Otawa was one in all seven feminine founders in Asia to be invited to affix Google for Startups’ Immersion: Girls Founders program, which supplies mentoring and networking alternatives. And in Could, Latona graduated from Google for Startups’ Japan accelerator program, the place the startup obtained coaching on Google merchandise, like its machine studying platform TensorFlow, mentorship from Googlers and trade consultants, and networking alternatives.

Kim additionally sees a giant alternative within the fast-growing fintech subject, particularly in India and Southeast Asia, the place hundreds of thousands of individuals don’t use banks or different conventional establishments. “You may reinvent the best way individuals financial institution and make investments, and plenty of can use AI know-how to do this,” says Kim, pointing to NIRA, primarily based within the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, for instance.

Based in 2017 by Nupur Gupta and Rohit Sen, each previously of Goldman Sachs, NIRA operates an app that gives small private loans (as much as 100,000 rupees, or $1,250). AI know-how can be utilized, for instance, to hurry up credit-scoring and mortgage underwriting. In 2019, the startup accomplished a mentorship program in India run by main U.S. accelerator TechStars and graduated from Google for Startups’ India accelerator program.

Nearly 1 / 4 of all Indian adults, or 230 million individuals, nonetheless don’t have a checking account, in keeping with World Financial institution information. “There’s an enormous unbanked inhabitants,” says Kim. “So in a single sense that’s a giant problem, however in one other sense it’s an incredible alternative.”

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