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Durians Daily #146: This Hong Kong startup may be the key to traveling safely in the pandemic; Carousell’s second-hand marketplace gives the needy a second chance; Thousands of small businesses in Bayuwangi to benefit from Grab’s technology

Getting ready for takeoff

  • Founder and CEO of 500-backed digital health startup Prenetics, Danny Yeung, spoke to Tatler Hong Kong about his journey starting with consumer genetic testing to being at the “forefront, not just in Hong Kong, but in the world for Covid-19”.
Credit: Tatler Hong Kong
  • Danny revealed he had a desire to get involved in the pandemic situation to help earlier this year in March. The startup was better known for its product, Circle DNA, that sold at-home genetic testing kits that can detect disease risk, food sensitivities, personality, and behavioural traits.
  • He shared when the pandemic started, Covid-19 testing was only available at private hospitals at a hefty fee. By April, the startup launched Project Screen, an at-home Covid-19 test mailed to the consumer’s home that is then sent back to its laboratory. Charging ~US$116, he wanted to make the test affordable and thus accessible.
  • From doing 50 to 100 tests daily in April, the number surged to 20,000 in July this year. The Hong Kong government then appointed Prenetics as the first private Hong Kong laboratory to test people, particularly those who were asymptomatic.
  • Prenetics is on the cusp of a new development: a technique called ‘RT-Lamp’ that produces test results within 30 minutes and can be operated at “low cost without specialist equipment or training”.
  • While the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology is still the “gold standard” of testing, Danny shared Lamp has “at least a 92 percent accuracy rate with no false positives” and delivers results within an hour.
  • The Lamp test however, will only be used for travel bubbles, or partnerships between two or more places with similar rates of Covid-19 that allows for quarantine-free leisure travel in both directions, to protect the safety of a community.
  • Trials have begun in early November, and the test is in the midst of gaining approval in various countries.
  • Danny revealed they are also testing a new sampling method: gargling. “No one likes getting a nose or throat swab,” he said, “Everyone knows how to gargle mouthwash. You take 5ml of water into your mouth, gargle it and spit it out.”
  • Read the full interview here.

Turning goodwill into #Blessings

  • 500-backed e-commerce startup Carousell was named a Champion of Good, an award recognizing an organization’s “extraordinary contributions to various social causes and beneficiary groups in the most challenging of times, leaving a positive impact on the lives of many”.

Credit: Carousell
  • The online marketplace launched a ‘Free Items’ category earlier this year. The move was inspired by its very own users’ charitable efforts, started by a single mother in 2016 with the hashtags #Blessings. She encouraged fellow users to donate or sell essential items at a reduced price to mothers in need.
  • The startup has also helped facilitate donations in partnership with Singaporean charitable organizations. Last year, Carousell worked with 26 charities that benefited various communities — from children to the disabled to senior citizens — in conjunction with Giving Week 2019 to celebrate the spirit of giving and encourage giving as a way of life.
  • Carousell set up a wish list for charities to fill with specific items they needed. They allowed charities to inspect donated items and only take in those that matched their needs.
  • The startup’s spokesperson shared the purpose of this mechanic was to manage the supply of donated items, which could be unwanted or of poor quality. Sorting out such items could burden charities because of the extra resources and personnel required.
  • “This way, the organisations are not overloaded with unnecessary items, and any excess listings can be taken by Carousell’s existing Free Community,” added the company’s spokesperson.
  • According to the article, “the ease of usage on the platform has played a part in encouraging Singaporeans to take part in donation efforts.”
  • Congratulations Carousell!

Driving the digital economy

  • 500-backed super app Grab has embarked on a partnership with the regency of Bayuwangi in Indonesia to grow its digital economy for the benefit of all levels of society in Indonesia, including in the midst of a pandemic.

Credit: Grab
  • The startup’s technology is expected to help the government develop the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as the tourism and culture sectors.
  • According to the regency’s statistics agency, Bayuwangi is home to thousands of MSMEs across 18 subdistricts and villages.
  • In addition to digital training for the sectors, Grab has provided a suite of solutions consisting of GrabAssistant (personal shoppers), GrabMart (on-demand grocery delivery), and GrabKiosk (registration to become a Grab Driver without needing to head to the HQ).
  • These services will enable delivery partners to diversify their income stream, MSMEs to gain wider access to customers, and consumers to stay home safely during the pandemic.
  • Grab will also integrate transport and e-ticketing services for tourist destinations in the area to promote tourism.
  • At the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Banyuwangi Regent H. Abdullah Azwar Anas to mark this partnership, the startup announced GrabProtect, a safety and hygiene protocol for transportation to minimize the risks of COVID-19 transmission during a trip.
  • Under this feature, drivers, delivery-partners, and passengers must confirm online that they do not show symptoms of COVID-19 and have adopted the necessary safety and hygiene measures.
  • Grab will also equip vehicles with plastic partitions as separators to minimize contact between passengers and driver-partners and cleaning kits consisting of hand sanitizers, vehicle disinfectants and face masks.
  • At the ceremony, Grab Indonesia country managing director Neneng Goenadi said, “Grab technology that is inclusive and safe is expected to help improve the skills of the people of Banyuwangi and provide more job opportunities. Grab hopes to continue helping MSMEs in tourism and the transportation sector”.

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500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. In Southeast Asia, 500 Startups invests through the pioneering 500 Durians family of funds. The 500 Durians funds have backed over 200 companies across multiple sectors from internet to consumer to deep technology. It continues to connect founders with capital, expertise and powerful regional and global networks to help them succeed.

This post is intended solely for general informational or educational purposes only. 500 Startups Management Company, L.L.C. and its affiliates (collectively “500 Startups”) makes no representation as to the accuracy or information in this post and while reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the information herein is accurate and up-to-date, no liability can be accepted for any error or omissions. All third party links in this post have not been independently verified by 500 Startups and the inclusion of such links should not be interpreted as an endorsement or confirmation of the content within. Information about portfolio companies’ markets, competitors, performance, and fundraising has been provided by those companies’ founders and has not been independently verified. Under no circumstances should any content in this post be construed as investment, legal, tax or accounting advice by 500 Startups, or an offer to provide any investment advisory service with regard to securities by 500 Startups. No content or information in this post should be construed as an offer to sell or solicitation of interest to purchase any securities advised by 500 Startups. Prospective investors considering an investment into any 500 Startups fund should not consider or construe this content as fund marketing material. The views expressed herein are as at the date of this post and are subject to change without notice. One or more 500 Startups fund may have a financial interest in one or more of the companies discussed.

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