(Source: Emotix)

Startup Street: This Startup Wants To Give Your Child A Robot Companion

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This week on Startup Street a venture that’s credited with making India’s first robotic companion; a report shows private equity investors prefer India more than any other country in South Asia; and how one the finest incubators is finally making its way to the east. Here’s what went on.

The AI Companion

“Miko can tell if you're happy, Miko can tell of you're sad. Miko understands your needs, likes and dislikes. Miko changes as you change.”

That’s the promise of this four-year old startup that wants to give children an artificial intelligence-powered robot companion.

Emotix, a consumer electronics startup founded in October 2015, now has a 20-member team of roboticists, academics and neurophsychologists who work around AI and the internet of things to make the perfect house robot.

Miko, the 800-gram robot that can navigate on flat surfaces with the help of its three wheels, features a series of informative games, adaption and responsive capabilities and can be controlled and regulated by parents, according to the company’s website.

Here’s the company’s demo video.

When polled, 92 percent of the parents showed concerns that their child would get addicted to smartphones, the company said. “Since almost every parent understands the importance of technology exposure for their child to remain competitive, the solution will come not from removing technology from our lives, but from enhanced technology.”

The robot can be ordered from the website for Rs 19,000. The product has even found a market within the education industry with schools buying Miko as a teacher’s assistant, co-founder Sneh Vaswani was quoted as saying in media reports.

Emotix has very accurately identified a strong consumer need and identified realizable technologies to meeting that need.
Dr. Ravi Vaidyanathan, Senior Lecturer, Imperial College London  

Emotix raised $2 million in a round led by venture capital firms IDG Ventures India and YourNest this week, PTI reported. Existing angel investors Keshav Murugesh, group chief executive officer of WNS Global Services, and several other investors participated in the funding.

The money will be used for research and new product development, it added.

India Is Private Equity’s Favourite Spot In South Asia

Private equity investors love India, at least more than any other country in South Asian. Since 2015, India has been the focus of a majority of the total private equity and venture capital tech activity in the region.

That's according to the latest M&A report by Kroll. India accounted for 56 percent of deals by value, and 71 percent by volume of all the PE and VC activity in South and South East Asian markets, the report said. The next biggest market, Singapore, accounted for 33 percent of the deal value and 10 percent of the volume.

"As investors look to enter the game early, VC funding has focused on startups," the report said. “As more and more local companies in the region demonstrate the sustained performance and market reach required to secure larger mid- or growth-stage funding, PE investments in the tech sector may also begin to look up in 2018 and beyond.”

In the next 12-24 months, both [India and Southeast Asia] may see steadier international interest and buyouts as more investable targets start to reach the size and growth stage that render them ripe for the picking.
Kroll M&A Report

Much of the deals came in the e-commerce and healthcare space. India received 72 percent of the PE and VC funding in e-commerce in the region. That was led by Softbank's $2.5 billion investment in homegrown online retailer Flipkart. The report called India and Southeast Asia as “crucibles” for e-commerce advancement.

Even in the fintech space, India received more than half of the total funding of the region. "India’s fintech appeal lies in the sheer size of its unbanked population, paired with its reputation as a strong regional technology hub," the report stated. “To succeed in the longer run, however, the country needs to catch up in regulatory support.”

Problems for India's investment space is are still aplenty. One of them is that the traditional banking system is piled with bad loans and that means banks aren’t able to lend to new-age startups that freely. Policy uncertainty is another problem, according to Kroll managing director Reshmi Khurana. “India, for instance, is on the path of tech liberalization, but may be prone to sudden policy shifts.”

One Of The World’s Most Successful Startup Incubators Is Going East

Y Combinator, the American seed accelerator behind the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit and Quora, is finally ready to take on Chinese startups after announcing its first conference in the region.

Its live Startup School conference will be held on May 19 at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, according to its website. Applications for the startup have opened.

The event features sessions from YC's partners and other startup founders including Nate Becharczyk of Airbnb, Eric Migicovky of Pebble and John Collison of Stripe.

“Our goal is to recruit more amazing founders from China and we’re interested in seeing how YC can play a role in the Chinese startup ecosystem," said Migicovky in a post on Y Combinator's website.

Y Combinator admits startups for a three-month programme and provides seed funding. It has accelerated and funded nearly 1,600 startups in over 53 countries. Only seven are from China.

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