Startups looking to participate will be tasked with working on briefs aimed at solving problems for some of Vizeum’s top clients. As yet, Vizeum hasn’t confirmed the list of clients participating in the contest.
The first stage though will be dedicated to filtering applicants for viable participants. Those who wish to apply can do so here in answer to three brand challenges: reaching and engaging millennials; leveraging mobile for brand trial and loyalty; and crowdsourcing.
According to Kristian Barnes, CEO of Vizeum Asia-Pacific, any tech startup is welcome to participate as long as it solves a client problem. Prequalifiers include having a developed product that has already had at least a small amount of VC funding. “It can’t be an idea in someone’s head,” he said.
Obviously, a company with a product that’s already being sold by the thousands or is pulling in millions would not considered a startup, added Barnes. The key, he said, is a solution that is scalable and not a one-off gimmick.
[email protected] was first launched in the London in 2013, and winning startups went on to work with Diageo, 20th Century Fox and Mini. One success story belongs to artificial-intelligence specialist, LBM and its work with the launch of the BMW i.
At the time of its launch, debate around electric cars was littered with misconceptions around performance and practicalities. So LBM devised an AI engine that could not only respond to customer queries about products, but also aggregate answers, learn from them, and tailor future responses accordingly. The engine handled more than 1,000 conversations with customers (as of 8 November, 2013).
Vizeum chose the Philippines for its first Asian Spark event because of the strong mobile innovation the company has observed spawning in the market among young startups, said Barnes. “There’s significant drive and energy there, and as it’s outside the more established hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong, there’s also more undiscovered potential.”
"We are now able to bridge that gap for the local start-up communities who have been clamouring for a roadmap to create great business value and lend a helping hand to Philippine clients eager to make a name in the local and global stage,” said Miguel Ramos, CEO for Dentsu Aegis Network Philippines.
[email protected] will also launch in Australia and Singapore in the second half of 2015.
The media network’s interest in working as a liaison between brands and startups, explained Barnes, is largely because it is an extension of something Vizeum has always been trying to do. “We want to solve business problems through media for our clients," he said. "Today, tech is such a big part of consumer behaviour. And you don’t know what you don’t know. So we’re broadening the field of perception we have to help clients solve problems.”
Also, with the presence of brand-initiated startup incubator programmes such as Unilever's Foundry, agencies run a risk of being cut out of the process if they don’t start to establish a role in the ecosystem. “Vizeum is taking a proactive role in finding its position in this space,” Barnes said.
Not all clients have the expertise to facilitate a startup incubator programme. Vizeum’s role, as Barnes sees it, is to help clients filter, connect and process the myriad of tech solutions, established and nascent, in the market.
“I just think it’s madness for agencies to not look for ways to educate themselves about this space. Spark is an education process for us, and also helps our clients think about their problems in a different way,” said Barnes.