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Why Google For Startups’ APAC Head Sees Large Development Potential For AI Startups In Asia


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

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

“Younger folks in Asia need issues now,” says Kim in a video interview through Google Meet. “AI permits folks to, on the contact of a button, have entry to among the greatest sources, 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 nicely about Asia’s want for pace. He grew up in Silicon Valley and labored within the U.S. for a few decade at tech firms 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 prime food-delivery startup, seeing first-hand the nation’s fast-paced tradition. “We name it ‘ppalli-ppalli’ [culture] in Korea,” says Kim, which implies “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 yr 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 development alternatives for AI startups within the area, due to authorities help for the more and more essential know-how, a deep expertise pool and in-a-hurry inhabitants, amongst different components.

Seoul, South Korea

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Photographs

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 canines through the use of the cellphone’s digital camera and AI algorithms. The startup is engaged on increasing its diagnostic capabilities to incorporate gum illness and joint abnormalities.

“Do you need to go to the vet, get in line and wait a couple of hours to—perhaps in 24 hours—see why your canine is sick, or a fast one-minute picture of your canine at dwelling and get solutions?,” says Kim. Multiple million samples of imaging knowledge, labeled by veterinary specialists, have been used to develop AI For Pet’s AI fashions, based on the startup.

Courtesy of AI For Pet

AI For Pet has already raised a number of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in funding from traders that embrace state-owned Industrial Financial institution of Korea, Korea Asset Funding Securities and POSTECH Holdings, an accelerator backed by Pohang College of Science and Know-how, one in every of South Korea’s prime know-how universities. Final yr 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 Web optimization 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 knowledge evaluation and machine studying, amongst others.

Asia’s quickly ageing inhabitants is another excuse why Kim is optimistic about AI startups. Based on a 2019 United Nations report, the area is dwelling to the seven fastest-aging populations on the planet: 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 will probably be dwelling to greater than half of the world’s aged inhabitants (65 and over), based on 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 listing of the highest 5 oldest nations, pushed by many years of low fertility charges,” Euromonitor mentioned in a report.

A girl workout routines with picket dumbbells throughout an occasion marking Respect for the Aged Day at a temple within the Sugamo district of Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016.

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

“When you’ve ageing populations like Korea and Japan that must lean in the 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 folks to rent. So nations which can be dealing with an enormous demographic cliff are going to leverage AI much more as a result of they want it.”

Latona in Japan helps firms 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 resorts and ryokans (conventional Japanese inns), reminiscent of reservations and checking in. Final yr, the startup acquired 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 big Rakuten. In 2020, Otawa was one in every of seven feminine founders in Asia to be invited to affix Google for Startups’ Immersion: Ladies Founders program, which supplies mentoring and networking alternatives. And in Might, Latona graduated from Google for Startups’ Japan accelerator program, the place the startup acquired coaching on Google merchandise, like its machine studying platform TensorFlow, mentorship from Googlers and trade specialists, and networking alternatives.

Kim additionally sees an enormous alternative within the fast-growing fintech area, particularly in India and Southeast Asia, the place thousands and thousands of individuals don’t use banks or different conventional establishments. “You may reinvent the best way folks financial institution and make investments, and lots 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.

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

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