Last week our tour operator mobile solution Tineri came out from under its blanket and made its public debut at Echelon Asia Summit 2016 in Singapore. It was my first experience of Echelon – my first time exhibiting at any tech startup event in fact – and it was a real eye-opener.
Echelon Is a Two-Way Street
As a veteran of countless travel trade shows, which remain a largely old-school exercise in putting on a suit & tie and pressing the flesh, Echelon is less about buying and selling and is more about sharing ideas, experiences and potential cooperation opportunities. As well as performing at least 40 product pitches during the two days, the meetings we had were an excellent source of new ideas and we now have several potential new directions for the product.
Travel Tech Was Conspicuous By Its Absence
I regularly note the absence of travel tech startups at events in Asia and it was the same story at Echelon – apart from Tineri, the only travel startups present were booking sites and the ubiquitous “travel with locals” startups. With nearly every tour operator I meet bemoaning the lack of innovative solutions for their industry, the lack of startup activity in this space is hard to understand.
WiFi Remains a Struggle
It’s not hard to provide fast, stable WiFi with an easy login process, but many seem to find it a challenge. At Echelon there was no separate WiFi for exhibitors and on the first day it was down for at least 50% of the time – given that most of us were there to demonstrate mobile or web apps, and that all the event info, agenda and exhibitor info was on the Echelon mobile app, this proved somewhat inconvenient! Likewise, my hotel in Singapore was unable to offer me a stable WiFi connection and in fact I had no WiFi access in my room at all on the last two nights.
Free Coffee Guarantees a Busy Stand
It’s surely no coincidence that the busiest stands at Echelon were Braintree and IBM – both of whom just happened to be offering free coffee. I suspect my colleague and I may have abused IBM’s hospitality, but they were just next door and it was easier than walking all the way to the nearest coffee shop. And we’re a bootstrapping startup, so we love free stuff!
We’re Better Than We Thought
Echelon was Tineri’s coming out party, the first time we’d thrown the app out into the public arena, and as a first-time tech startup founder I had a little bit of an inferiority complex, a concern that we might not match up to the hundreds of other startups on show. We needn’t have worried – and they were probably all feeling the same way! Tineri more than held its own and generated a surprising amount of positive interest from potential investors, users and partners alike. Watching the startup pitches on the main stage (which was conveniently right in front of our stand), there were a lot of good ideas badly presented, and bad ideas well presented, but not that many great ideas well presented. We have a good, well-designed product, we are able to describe it succinctly, and the market seems to be hungry for it. And right in the final hour of the event, we had the ultimate validation, when some investors we’d met earlier that day came back and told us they wanted to invest! Thanks Echelon!