A Slice of TADSummit Asia: Innovator Interviews

In this series of weblogs, A Slice of TADSummit, we review a few of the themes from TADSummit Asia. Some of the most viewed videos came from this segment: Innovator Interviews. It was my favorite segment because of the focus on people, their experiences, their advice, and also the common threads across the interviews.

With no pre-planning, simply the people who said yes first when I asked for interviews. Three of the innovators have a current focus on education technology, EdTech. Which given the current pandemic is proving quite important. All had programmable telecoms / communication experience, and all had worked with me through TADHack, TADSummit or my consulting business.

Our current top viewed interview was with Devadas Krishnan, CEO of MySchoolPage™ an online live tutoring service for K-12 students across the world. They are revolutionizing the tutoring process through personalized lesson plans and schedules. Their academic experts ensure that the tutoring processes are tailor-made for your child in order to ensure academic success. Devadas noted the market is $120B with a CAGR of 16%.

Devadas’s recommendations in programmable communications are: it’s not about the technology. Rather understanding the customer and knowing the local communication regulations. This theme was repeated in the interviews with Ruwan and Manjeet. Devadas continued: Programmable telecoms is almost a no code technology, so a small team can create great experiences across a range of devices. But in Indian VoIP gateways are still banned, so an IP based call can only terminate in IP, not on the PSTN. So something as simple as a welcome message may not be able to be sent by SMS. This is why MySchoolPage keeps everything online, to ensure their service just works, and they can be there to help tutors and students if there are any communication problems.

Devadas brings decades of experience in telecoms, he has deep expertise in the field. CPaaS providers also have deep expertise across multiple markets and can help entrepreneurs understand in-country regulatory issues. It is complex, for example A2P SMS in Japan can not include URLs. Along with many other restriction that will deem an SMS illegal and discarded without notification.

Manjeet Singh, CEO of Buddy4Study highlighted the COVID-19 situation has leveled the playing field for new services given the world has changed, so now is the time to start a new venture. He also demonstrates how the democratization of telecoms is enabling people to have a massive social impact. In just 3 years Buddy4Study has helped 85,000 students. Well done Manjeet!

The core advice from Ruwan’s interview was ‘know your customer’. The combination of IdeaMart, hSenid Mobile and Extrogene helped them do that and build a successful business with recurring revenue and an expanding portfolio of services.  It’s not a technology issue, or being smart about using an API, its the core of any business, understand your customer so you deliver continuous value. If you have time for only one of the interviews, Ruwan’s is a great entrepreneurs story.

I see the large web companies active across Asia with hackathons. But for telcos and the broader programmable telecoms / communications community I see it as a gap. Hence why I asked David Curran, who is not based in Asia rather Ireland, to share his experiences and advice on innovation hubs and hackathons (permission-less innovation).

David provides some excellent advice on what is required to build an innovation hub. Every telco should have an innovation hub, not something built using expensive vendors and consultants. Rather something built by a committed small team wanting to make a difference in their home country – just copy IdeaMart. If you do not, you’re making your country poorer on many levels, not just financially. The Bay Area web companies are doing it in your countries, you can either let them capture wealth creation in you country for their profit, or help your country capture it. The programmable telecoms innovation race is well underway.

We covered a lot in this theme, I hope it captures the keys to entrepreneurial success in Asia using programmable Telecoms. And the role telcos and the Asia programmable telecoms industry need to more actively encourage local innovation to keep revenue within Asia, and not taken away to the Bay Area.

Innovator Interviews

Programmable Communications Innovator Interview: Ruwan Dissanayaka, Co-Founder and CEO at Extrogene Software

Programmable Communications Innovator Interview: Devadas Krishnan, Chief Executive Officer at MySchoolPage

Innovator Interview: The Importance of Hacking with David Curran about Science Hack Day

Programmable Communications Innovator Interview: Manjeet Singh, CEO & Co-founder at Buddy4study

Check out all the TADSummit Asia presentations here.