StartUp Magic

037It was happening all over the world.  StartUp Fever. From Auckland and Amman to Ulaan Baatar, Tokyo and Washington, aspiring entrepreneurs huddled in groups to birth new ideas for themselves and the world.

It was a first ever event of this kind in Bali. Any surprise that it took place in Ubud, one of Asia’s flourishing epicen045ters of digital-nomadness? Absolutely not.

Guess what: Bali is not just for vacations anymore.

I’d also bet that the local gathering was arguably one of the more innovative and unusual StartUp Weekends across the globe; infused with the spirit of Bali and quintessentially Ubudian.

041For one, the sheer range of countries gathered at Ubud’s flagship co-working hub, Hubud, was mind-boggling: Participants represented far-flung countries such as the US, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Israel. Facilitators and contributors from France, Gaza and Poland. A photographer from Siberia and a designer from Serbia. Finalists from Bulgaria and Indonesia.

At times we were a057lso graced with the unsurprising arrival of monkeys who’d traipsed across the street, from their natural habitat – the town’s renowned and tourist-packed Monkey Forest – to check out the scene. Clearly, they knew that something was up. 069

Where else but in Ubud might you find a co-working hub that keeps an air rifle handy, lying in plain sight and undisturbed on a work-table? No worries, it’s just for the monkeys, they say. And there it stays u039ntil the pesty creatures give up on sneaking away with food scraps and saunter back to their abode.

Where else will you see serving plates piled high with towering cones of brown rice, surrounded with various cooked vegetables, tempe and peanuts known as nasi tumpeng? Or, throughout the days, a colorful blend of healthy food; satay sticks, fresh papaya and watermelon, raw chocolate 089studded with raisins, mango-flavored frozen yogurt and green smoothies?

But the core mission of the weekend was centered on community and creativity – and building a digital prototype for presentation.087

After 54 hours of pitching, voting, sketching, developing, designing, coaching, more pitching, more developing, brainstorming, market research, querying, surveying – with eating, drinking and dancing thrown in for good measure (Happy, anyone?!) and balance (ok with some sleep interspersed throughout as well), last evening’s final presentations and judging was a crowning event that brought the house down.

091Only a red carpet was missing – which might have been misplaced in a barefooted crowd dressed mainly in shorts, skirts, singlets and flip-flops.

Still, the excitement and buzz was palpable, as participants were glued to their smartphones: A play-by-play updated us continually as Ubud’s Tweeting power inched up to Tokyo’s Tweets. Then surpassed them.

Even the Wall Street Journal (South Asia) considered the event newsworthy enough to merit coverage – most recently earlier today, including stories, results and winning teams.042

Team leaders, with slick-ish presentations and crunched numbers supporting their products, looked more wired than nervous. They were timed and cheered on. Judges questioned and prodded for financial details and rollout strategy. Points were tallied. Finalists were called up.

075And then, after all the hoopla about digital startup ideas that came to life over the weekend, like Bright Crowd, Lean Sites, Bringers, Deco Shop – and our very own (and community-spirited) venture named WElance – we were blessed with a flash of brilliance and a moment of poetic justice. Who could have disputed that the team that took home the gold was the ‘right’ team to have won in Bali?

Cash for Trash was created to provide much-needed support for the locals: a mobile app for the Balinese to become more environmentally responsible with the (recyclable) waste that has fo050r too long been dumped into landfills.

This is how magic keeps on happening in Bali – sometimes in the unlikeliest of places. Hubud’s resident monkeys must be feeling that magic…


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