E27 Unconference Singapore 2008 – Impressions

So instead of wasting this Saturday on sleeping and lazing around, I hauled my backside over to the E27 Unconference at Biopolis in Singapore. This was my first time and I was curious to find out how such unconferences worked. I liked the general casualness of the whole affair – pretty good food, swag, Guitar Hero contests and a lot of young guys building cool products.

A lot of the products on display were very impressive and I was fortunate enough to talk to the guys behind them and it’s very inspiring to see guys going the extra mile to solve everyday problems. Here are some tidbits:

The Good Parts

  • gothere.sg : Easily my favorite product at E27 because it is so useful. gothere.sg is built on web.py, jQuery and is hosted at slicehost.
  • homespace.sg : Another very useful web-app (not for me particularly, but I can see it being used widely). This one is built on Ruby On Rails, Prototype and a sprinkling of Flash.
  • widgeo.us : I still haven’t got the concept yet, but from what was demoed it seemed an intriguingly good idea. Couldn’t get a chance to speak to the guys behind it, but would really like to know what they use to power instant messaging.
  • qweki.com : Another slightly confusing product, but from what I understood it is a service along the lines of Mahalo (customized search results). On the negative side, it had a pretty bad UI.
  • podfire.sg : Didn’t know there was a video podcasting network in Singapore and even though the current crop of shows is very limited (and doesn’t really appeal to me) I will keep an eye out for interesting ones in future.
  • Preetam Rai’s talk on startups in emerging countries : I thought it was very interesting and the discussions/arguments which followed were edgy and almost worth the admission fee.

The Bad Parts

  • The Microsoft Keynote : Don’t get me wrong, the talk did have some interesting view points. What bugged me was how the speaker was using it as a platform to promote Microsoft products. This, despite the fact that Microsoft are clearly late-comers in realizing the value of the so-called trends that he discussed – user experience, collaboration and cloud-computing.
  • More Rockstars, Less Groupies : I would definitely have liked to see more ideas and products. Even if there isn’t a monetization plan, a business plan and an exit strategy, people should be encouraged to build stuff anyway and worry about making money later. The E27 event is definitely a big step in the right direction, but at certain points during the event, I got the feeling that the enthusiasm and bubbli-ness was forced. The guys building stuff must be leading the discussion, not the VCs, the angels and the government.

Overall, I had a great time and I will definitely be there next year.


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8 Responses to “E27 Unconference Singapore 2008 – Impressions”

  1. Miccheng Says:

    Thanks for the kind mention. What kinds of show would appeal to you?


  2. bjorn Says:

    nice pt abt not having enough rockstars n too many groupies.. anything agst order of nature shld be restored in due time… 🙂

    first time here, say hi to ajay for me.

  3. arun Says:

    @michael – Hi Michael, no problem 🙂 Regarding shows, Geek Goddess didn’t really appeal to me (at least the couple shows that I watched). I would like to see a more web-focused show, with a lot more emphasis and discussion on the stuff that is used to build web applications, discussions, new software tools, trends, etc.

    Also, since I’m a movie buff, I would like a show with movie previews as well as reviews.

    Nice work on the site, hope to see a lot more!

  4. arun Says:

    @bjorn- Hey Bjorn, don’t think we’ve met yet. Were you at e27 too? I’ve heard about you from Ajay (I forget, were you in the same batch as him?) will pass on your hi to him 🙂

  5. Mohan Says:

    Hey Arun!

    Glad you could make it for the event! I appreciate your thoughts and comments, especially the portion on how we can further improve the event. I think we have some work before local startups actually really focus on building great products and not just chase after business models. GoThere.sg really showed me how a company can make a really awesome product and concentrate on making it great for the users, and not just find a way to monetize it.

    Let’s hope that at future events, more of the startup founders will actually run the breakout sessions and be more involved in stirring up discussions 🙂

  6. arun Says:

    @mohan – Hey Mohan – Yup I enjoyed myself 🙂 Looking forward to more E27’s.

  7. Harish Pillay Says:


    I too enjoyed Unconference. Are you one of the MS Bashers, as i felt it was one of the better presentations i have heard. The Q &A was well handled.

    do not see any mention of breakouts, think that was the best part of the show.

  8. arun Says:

    Hey @harish – Nope, not an MS basher, I come in peace 🙂 I’m not saying the technology and the presentation wasn’t impressive, but it felt like they were tagging along with the real innovators in the space (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.) and I felt that to be a little silly.

    Regarding the breakouts, I did mention it, but probably not explicitly enough – but I really enjoyed Preetam Rai’s talk on startups in emerging countries.

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