A household name in her native Malaysia, actress and TV host Neelofa's first claim to fame was winning a local teen beauty contest in 2010. Four years later, she decided to don a hijab - a headscarf worn by Muslim women to cover the hair - a move that inspired her to launch a modest fashion business catering for young and stylish Muslim women. Neelofa credits a big part of her success to entering the market at the right time. A Reuters report estimated that Muslim consumers spent $266 billion on clothing and footwear in 2013 and expect this market to account for over 14% of the global fashion market by 2019. But her social media marketing strategy supported by her millions of Instagram fans has also played a big part in expanding the business. Among her handful of lifestyle brands, the "Naelofar hijab" line now sells in 38 countries, including her latest concession in the heart of London's upmarket Chelsea district.
Aisa Mijeno is a faculty member of Engineering and Innovation Labs Director at De La Salle University — Lipa. Being a member of Greenpeace PH, she has traveled many places promoting environmental campaigns. She also loves hiking which brought her to the majestic mountains of northern Philippines where it all began. The product concept was formed after living with a tribe for days relying only on kerosene lamps to do evening chores.
Her interests vary from astronomy to classical music to embedded systems and electrochemistry.
In 2014, Dai cofounded bike-sharing startup Ofo in Beijing. The company, which lets users rent a bike through its smartphone app, is expanding rapidly across the country after raising hundreds of millions of dollars from a list of powerful investors including Coatua Management, Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing, and Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner. Dai, a Peking University graduate, is eyeing international markets too. In December, Ofo announced that it would put 20,000 bikes in California's Silicon Valley and in London.
Li is a Filipino-Chinese-Taiwanese actress, model and fashion blogger who has more than one million followers on Facebook. She has a photography blog called Annsnaps, which provides fashion and lifestyle tips to her many fans. Li won the Shorty Awards for fashion in 2011.
Considered one of the most influential foreign entertainers in Korean show business, Okyere works to bridge the gap between Korea and Africa and change local misconceptions about Africans in general. Working his way up from exchange student to regular panellist on a popular variety show, Okyere gained fame for his wit, joviality and expressiveness of his points of view. He also helped open a school in his native Ghana and cofounded a campaign to connect cultures through food and fashion, designing t-shirts with illustrations fusing dishes from Korea and Africa.
Kawatra's Feeding India tries to solve the country's hunger problem by providing free meals through volunteers and donation centers. It operates a smartphone app where restaurants and individuals can sign up to donate food, which are then collected and distributed to people in need. The nonprofit organization has a network of more than 4,500 volunteers, who run regular feeding programs in more than 45 Indian cities and has served more than 4.8 million meals so far.
When arriving in Australia from Syria on a humanitarian visa, Dacho could speak English, had a master's degree in web science and 8+ years of work experience. Still, he found it impossible to break into the employment market. He cofounded Refugee Talent with Anna Robson, to help other refugees find jobs in their new home countries. By leveraging online tools, the startup aims to connect refugees with companies who are looking to hire them as statistics show that 85% of refugees remain unemployed within the first five years of their arrival.
In 2010, more than 75% of the rural Cambodian population still defecated in the open and Daroath Phav spotted an opportunity to use his business skills for the greater good. He joined non-profit organization WaterSHED aiming to motivate rural families to invest their own money in a household toilet by building a dynamic rural market based on increasing supply and demand, designing aspirational messages for toilets and delivering them through effective sanitation marketing strategies. So far, his team has overseen the sale of more than 150,000 toilets nationwide, generating more than $6 million for local businesses -- helping to push rural sanitation coverage from 25% to nearly 50% over 5 years.
Kazmi raised $100 million to seed Collegiate Capital, a venture firm that focuses on fintech, cybersecurity, energy and gaming; he's Europe's youngest founder and managing partner of a VC fund of that size. He started his first business, a game called U-Design, at age 16; he also now serves as CEO of the Oxford Accelerator, a business incubator hosted by the prestigious university.
Modi is the chief executive of Lucideus, an enterprise cybersecurity company that he helped start. The firm based in India has provided electronic risk management services for four years to large companies offshore. Modi also joined an Indian government committee formed in 2014 to set up cybersecurity vocational courses. Multiple universities in Asia count him as a visiting faculty member specialized in information systems and security.
Zali is a Pakistani filmmaker who was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 2016 - in the narrative category - for his documentary on suicide bombers, 100 Steps - Sou Qadam. He's gone on to win several other accolades at international events including the Miami Independent Film Festival and the Accolade Global Film Festival. He is a communications graduate of Northwestern University's Qatar campus.
These three sisters founded Freedom Cups, a feminine hygiene company operating a "buy one, give one" model that provides women in underprivileged communities with menstrual cups. The cups are ideal for women in areas with no toilets, electricity or running water, as well as reducing waste that alternatives like tampons and pads can create. Each cup lasts up to 15 years and replaces about 5,000 disposable sanitary products, making it a more economical and eco-friendly option.
Fulcher is the founder and CEO of RingMD, a platform that connects a global network of doctors and patients through digital products -- including an app, remote-diagnostics wearable technology and a chatbot. Its platform allows for audio and video calls and lets the patient send messages through a secure system. A serial entrepreneur, Fulcher took up coding at age 7, launched his first business by 13, and has been acting as a mentor to startups at both Founder Institute and Startup Chile. Based in Singapore and with offices across Southeast Asia, RingMD has also expanded to the U.S.
Sandi Sein Thien is the CEO and cofounder of Digital Kaway, a Myanmar-based digital marketing agency providing social media management, content marketing and social listening services. As a marketer with experience in Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar, she also started the local chapter of Geek Girls, a "women in tech" community with more than 1,000 members that organize regular meetups. As an active advocate of women's rights, Sandi Sein Thien is currently traveling around Myanmar on a "GeekGirls Workshop Tour" to teach Burmese women basic digital and social media skills.
Shabibi is the cofounder and CEO of Machine Ventures, a Philippines-based incubator providing financial support and management guidance to people trying to start their own businesses in the country. One of the first companies it hatched is HeyKuya, a text-based personal assistant system with more than 35,000 users. Originally from Iran, Shabibi is a successful serial entrepreneur who founded two startups -- in music streaming and sports media -- before moving to the Philippines.
After trying weight-loss fads like celebrity workouts and detox programs with no results, Lee changed her lifestyle and diet and lost 45 pounds. She cofounded smartphone app Dano to help alter the way many Korean women view body image. The startup offers a mobile personal training service with customized workout videos, nutrition coaching and habit training.
Katrina Razon is an entrepreneur who is the Managing Partner of Third Culture Music + Media, an experiential marketing agency and serves as a Director at Wonderfruit, Thailand's premium lifestyle festival focused on sustainability. With over ten years of experience in the music industry, Katrina has consulted and collaborated on multiple festival brands around the world. In 2016, she launched KSR Ventures as an investment vehicle toward entertainment ventures, technology and biotechnology. Her passions include philanthropy, surfing and sharing music as a DJ.
Education startup Crimson helps students connect with tutors and consultants all over the world for services including academic tutoring, extracurricular coaching and university admissions consulting. The company, which has a network of more than 2,000 tutors from 50 colleges worldwide, has served more than 20,000 students.
Singapore's Privi Medical is a medtech startup that makes transformative medical devices. Their flagship solution is a disposable, drug-free cure for low-grade haemorrhoids that can be used by the sufferers in the comfort of their homes. Since the solution is drug-free, it will be especially helpful to pregnant women -- a group where the incidence of this problem is particularly high. Sina Raja cofounded Privi Medical in 2014, and last year the startup raised $1.1 million in seed funding.
Anand, Issar and Agrawal are a trio of industrial designers from India and the creators of SoaPen, a teaching tool in the form of a wearable soap crayon. The skin-friendly crayon allows caregivers to draw on a child's hands, encouraging them to wash their hands until the mark vanishes -- the aim to make cleansing fun but thorough. The cofounders met at New York's Parson's School of Design and started the project because they were shocked to discover that 1.5 million children under the age of five die every year due to infectious diseases such as diarrhea. SoaPen won the 2015 'Wearables for Good' award given out by UNICEF, Frog Design and ARM technology.
Together with her husband, Eom launched Solidware, a startup that uses big data and machine learning to help financial companies give better credit scores -- and thus, customers a better chance at getting loans. The duo quit their well-paying jobs and bootstrapped the fintech startup at their home, cooking for their employees to save costs while developing an artificial intelligence solution that would analyze financial companies massive customer databases. They were acquired by Korea's Yello Financial Group (now named DAYLI Financial Group) last March, and plan to expand into Japan and France.
As the cofounders of Singaporean food company The Golden Duck Co., Shen and Hwang took advantage of a craze for salted egg yolk there, by creating a series of handcrafted gourmet snack products - from potato chips to crunchy fish skin - with this distinctive flavor. The Golden Duck Co. now sells an average of 10,000 packets of snacks per week.
In 2011, Douglas cofounded beverage company, Nexba with his friend Drew Bible. Their mission was to create a line of refreshing and healthy drinks that are low in sugar. Nexba is now one of Australia's fastest growing drinks companies, selling their low-calorie products at more than 3,000 outlets, including Coles supermarkets and Virgin Airlines. Douglas is Nexba's Brand Director and oversees sales.
Gui is a serial entrepreneur and inventor. His most recent creation is Vue, the world's first stylish smart glasses that raised over $2.2 million on Kickstarter from over 10,000 backers. Previously he created Vigo, a patented smart headset that helps drivers stay awake, working with Fortune 500 companies to help save lives. Gui also founded a show in China called Three Fellows, which has garnered over 40 million views and is frequently aired on TV.
Zhang's Poputar makes smart guitars that can be remotely controlled with its smartphone app, which shows users how to play by lighting up corresponding LED lights on the instrument. In 2015, it raised $1.2 million in angel investment from China's Zhen Fund.
A user interface designer at Japanese computer and IT giant Fujitsu Limited, Honda began working with deaf people in college as a sign language interpreter and volunteer. Looking to help the deaf, he started work in college on what would become a product called Ontenna (a play on the Japanese words for sound and antenna), a device that translates sound, like music, into vibrations and light. The device won a Good Design Special Award, which is sponsored by the industry ministry, in 2016.
Jianbo cofounded CellRobot in 2014. The startup makes customized modular robots from its lithium battery- powered modulars, which can be rearranged into as many as 100 differently shaped robots. With CellRobot's smartphone app, users can set their speeds and control them for simple tasks such as filming video, watering plants and pouring wine! Yang holds a master's degree in mechatronics engineering from Beihang University in Beijing
Founded by Cua, SkyEye, which started as a university project in 2009, designs its own drones to perform aerial surveys and produce maps or models for customers. The startup is also part of the United Nations OCHA (Office for Coordination of Human Affairs), which is asked to participate in times of natural disasters.
A finalist for the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 award, Seira was one of 20 finalists who beat 3,600 applicants that competed in Milan. Her dishes, including an elegant smoked duck, are designed to capture the beauty and rich color of Japan's four seasons.
Huang Chaiming is the cofounder of Hypereal, a Shanghai-based startup that develops VR headsets and software. Last year, the company unveiled its first headset, HyPano. Huang started his company out of high school as an alternative to college when he couldn't afford the tuition fees. The company has raised $17 million since its inception in 2015.
Since relocating to the Philippines 4 years, Schemm has been focused on his passion for building and consolidating creative culture in his half-native Philippines. He does so through his agency Third Culture Music + Media, and through his ongoing passion for the music and event industry in the wider South East Asia region. Through his agency, he applies the same forward thinking ethic – derived from his background in brand and trends consulting – to push boundaries in the realms of branding, digital, events and marketing, with a stellar list of clients including Diageo, Gatorade, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia, Stoli, Miller Genuine Draft, Wonderfruit Festival and Sonar Hong Kong to name a few. Together with some partners, his latest venture is a cocktail bar named 20:20, with an adjacent nightclub, XX XX, dedicated to quality dance music. Since launching in 2016, the venues have hosted names such as Kevin Saunderson, Objekt, Roy Davis Jr, Kitsuné,. DJ Nobu and Telephones amongst others.
A practicing corporate lawyer in Melbourne, Chai Walli's Uppma Virdi is also the granddaughter of an Ayurvedic doctor who specialized in spices. Her tea blends and products are sold online and supplied to everyone from the regular home-shopper to supermarkets, restaurants, and yoga studios across Australia. Virdi was named Australia's Businesswoman of the year for 2016 at the Indian Australian Business and Community Awards.
Liu founded Arashi Vision in 2014. The startup makes 360-degree cameras that can take spherical videos and photos in 4K quality. The gadgets, which can be installed on smartphones, are available in more than 50 countries including China, the U. S. and Japan. It has attracted tens of millions of dollars in funding from investors, including Qiming Venture Partners, IDG Capital Partners and Chinese retailer Suning Group. Liu holds a bachelor's degree in software engineering from the Nanjing University Software Institute.