LIVE FROM MWC19 SHANGHAI: KaiOS Technologies, the company behind the KaiOS for smart feature phones, turned to local developers to provide innovative apps and use cases as it eyes opportunities in new regions, fresh after a round of fundraising.

Tim Metz, marketing director for KaiOS (pictured, centre) said emerging markets remained a significant opportunity, with some 3 billion people still not connected to the internet.

The first step is to bring people online, after which developers can start to create apps locally for KaiOS, said Metz during the 4FYN Start-up Event.

“What will be really interesting is to see what kind of apps and services they develop and how they will use the internet in their local communities. That will definitely unfold in the next few years,” he said.

Last month the company announced it raised $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from existing backers Google and TCL. It set aggressive expansion plans across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Jumping ahead
Nicolas du Cray, partner at Cathay Innovation (pictured, far right), said it is seeing technology leapfrog everywhere.

For example, it took China ten years to put smartphones in the hands of people and for them to starting buying online. It will take maybe five years in Africa and perhaps three years in Southeast Asia, he said.

“The speed of change is really strong. To invest and participate in that you need to have very good idea of how ecosystems are going to be built. What we see in China is a lot happening around payments.”

Mobile payments pave the way for new digital services allowing people to do more things on their phones, he said. Each market will have different characteristics, but for KaiOS it’s all about connecting people to enable them to use digital service to get access to more economic opportunities.

Start-up tips
“We need to pragmatic to understand the dynamics of each market. The endgame is to connect everybody to give them better access to information, healthcare and job opportunities.”

He advised start-ups to pick investors carefully, one which can be helpful and connect you to the right resources and not just provide money.

“Keep in mind getting money from a venture capital firm is like a marriage. You’re in the relationship at least five years, so choose someone you get along with well.”

Metz suggested new companies focus on solving a real need and getting the product or service working and the business model right, when investors see that it gets easier to find capital.