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CHINICT Hackathon: Startups and Carpoolers

 

Beijing is producing some interesting startups these days, and for anyone curious about the action look no further than the CHINICT conference. Last Friday, their Hackathon challenge hosted a number of  interesting startups who tested their ideas in front of a panel of VC investors.

A variety of startups in particular targeted some important markets, including transportation, education, travel, shopping and dating.

Generally, all of these are in high demand in Beijing. This is particularly because of a saturated road and public transportation system, a parental obsession with education, a luxury shopper and travel craze brought on by new-found wealth, and a widespread gap in compatible partners – probably reflecting not only demographics, but also educational and class differences (Note: It’s widely believed that China will have 30 million more men than women by 2020).

Put differently, China has a lot of needs, and technology can help. Many of the startups names may be familiar: Pandai.cn (loans), Instreet.cn (advertising), Jetzet.com (all-in-one travel), Wodache.com (carpooling), Scholacloud (cloud services for schools), Travel Abroad (OCR Chinese translation), Tataufo.com (dating), Cloud TV (real-time video on phone), My Life My Crush (social network), Xiangshai.com (shopping). All of them had an interesting product to present, though their ideas were not all completely formed yet.

So what stood out in the discussion? The boldest statement most likely came from Qiming’s partner Hans Tung, who told the team of Wodache that he believed their idea was the most interesting pitch he had “seen in the past 3 months.”

What was their idea? Essentially, the concept involves social carpooling for white collar workers via smartphone. In other words, Wodache connects people working in congested areas of Beijing with others in their vicinity who own a car and who live in the same area. By linking people who indicate a desire to carpool, and giving drivers someone to talk to on the way to work, they aim to both decrease traffic and increase networking.

Sure this seems simple, but will people begin to adopt it?

The team is apparently already making some headway with local tech companies, including IBM and Baidu, and they are working to build more flexibility in the platform. At the moment, the carpools are preplanned, though the team hopes to make the software more spontaneous in the future. Eventually, they want to introduce a card payment system, wherein carpoolers would be able to pay their gratitude to drivers through an online platform.

Beijing traffic is a notirious headache, and their ideas hold some actual potential to limit the amount of cars on the road. Let’s hope they can do it, because the air pollution is really becoming unbearable these days.

Update: Scholacloud had previously been miswritten as Scholar Cloud. Be sure to check out their website!

 

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