The deep technology (deeptech) sector is making its mark, with founders establishing startups in Southeast Asia that offer unique innovations and improvements to already-created technologies. Deeptech involves researching cutting-edge technologies thoroughly and advancing them to the next level through high-level technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, and more.
Some examples of deeptech include AI, quantum computing, blockchain, Robotech, and more. The deployment of these technologies can help solve broader societal problems, such as inefficiencies on the healthcare side. Deeptech benefits include automation, solving complex problems, and boosting efficiency.
We examine positive startup trends in Southeast Asia in 2023
The sector also has many disadvantages, like the high-cost barrier to accessing deeptech solutions in the community, difficulty finding talent, and inadequate funding. Another possibility is that deeptech algorithms may have biases that hinder their proper application.
Below are various deeptech startups making waves in 2023:
Malaysia-based BoomGrow Farms helps people eat healthier by enabling them to grow fresh crops with the ideal balance of flavour and nutrients. They use what is known as ‘Precision Farming’, which involves using technology and data analytics to ensure the crop yield is of the highest quality and is consistently available year round. The company takes a sustainable approach to farming by employing a team of researchers, IoT designers, agronomists, and others to grow food in a controlled environment.
BoomGrow receives financing from angel investors and other venture capital firms like SME Corp, PlaTCOM Ventures, and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Sdn Bhd. As of 2021, the company has raised USD 216,000, and it has a patent-pending Machine Farm hydroponics system which will be scalable to meet the needs of the farm. Hydroponics is a technique for growing crops in a controlled environment using water-based nutrient solutions.
Seventh Sense is a deeptech AI offering face verification and Edge AI solutions based in Singapore. The company solves the problems faced using expensive Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) or cloud technology by deploying high-accuracy and energy-saving products. Thus far, Seventh Sense has raised an undisclosed amount from 500 Global and CAP Vista.
Face verification involves face search, comparison, detection, and anti-spoofing—using photos or other facial tricks to fake face verification. Edge AI combines edge computing (technology for processing data faster) and AI (algorithms for processing data locally). Examples of Edge AI devices include smart speakers, drones, and self-driven cars, which process and analyse data in real time.
Indonesia-based Pensieve creates AI, data, and analytics products to help companies make better decisions and to maximise their employees’ productivity. The company aims to solve the problem organisations face of dealing with clunky, difficult-to-customise, and challenging-to-deploy technology. In its place, Pensieve software takes multiple data sources and fuses analytics and operations to enable leaders to make mission-critical decisions.
Pensieve received an undisclosed amount in a Pre-Seed funding round last year from Pandu Sjahrir, Founding Partner of AC Ventures. The company provides insights in real-time so that workers can reach maximum efficiency. Furthermore, research from KPMG showed the company heads that they can improve speed and reduce costs if they deploy analytics appropriately.
Earable, a Vietnamese-based startup, has developed FRENZ, an AI-powered brainband that enables users to sleep faster and more deeply. The band tracks sleep in real time, analyses sleep cycles to help users to wake up at optimal times, and contains relaxation features to aid in falling asleep. It also offers insights like heart rates and breathing rhythms and provides sleep coaching.
Earable has raised USD 8.7 million from Samsung Ventures, Smilegate Investment, 500 Startups Vietnam, 500 Global, Founders Fund, and Scott Wharton. Through the funding, Samsung Ventures planned to forge alliances through its network to enable Earable to expand globally. The startup also plans to boost its product portfolio, expand its operations, and scale its product delivery.
Homage is a personalised care solution using smart technology and offering at-home, on-demand nursing care to seniors and adults. These solutions give the recipient the dignity and grace for those who are ageing or recovering at home. This Singaporean startup’s solutions include physiotherapy, speech therapy, nursing procedures, home medical services, and more.
Homage has collaborated with the government and other institutions in the health or financial sector to deliver its caregiving services. Thus far, it has received USD 45 million from Alternate Ventures, Sheares Healthcare, SeedPlus, East Ventures, HealthXCapital, and more. The Homage platform connects caregivers and families to benefit from the available solutions.
As the digital transformation in the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) continues apace, the unveiling of newer technologies grows as deeptech startups make their mark in the tech ecosystem. Some tech startups in Southeast Asia are securing increased funding, despite the global headwinds, which bodes well for the industry.
Furthermore, the deeptech sector is applicable in many industries, which means it should be around for a while.