RISE of the Startups: First Stop Hong Kong

UPDATE 5/27/2016- This year RISE will take place in the beginning of June and Odigo is headed back to this awesome Asia tech conference. Our post below from last year captures a bit of the feeling of RISE but stay tuned on our social channels (@odigotravel on twitter and instagram) and follow us on Facebook to get a view of the 2016 conference. We are in the BETA program this year and are also entered in the Pitch contest- and of course we are back again to giveaway a new #trip2tokyo for two to a lucky RISE attendee who demos and gives feedback on the soft launch of our new planner! 

A couple of months ago we were at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong. Having attended Web Summit the previous year we were delighted to take part in the Alpha RISE program this time round, where early stage companies apply to exhibit for free (in comparison to big companies who pay over $9k!). It was our first time exhibiting at a show like this and also the first time we’ve really promoted and demoed the site in person.
A nice touch at Hong Kong airport for visitors to RISE  Conf.
Throughout the year the organisers of RISE have many conferences scheduled across the globe, from Dublin to Las Vegas. But this year was the first time that an event of this scale, focusing soley on Asian startups, giving up and coming entrepreneurs a platform from which they can be seen and heard, was organised in the region. 
With so many conferences going on in the tech world, it’s hard to know where we fit in, travel/tech/startup/early-stage/accelerator/Y-Combinator? But here, in amongst many Asian startups with a range of products and services on offer, we didn't need to worry about labels and we felt right at home. We packed up our iPads, brought along some uchiwa (fans - it was so hot!) and some of our customised pretty little postcards to giveaway and got ready for two days of talking. 
We set up at our booth pretty quickly, as I mentioned, having attended the Web Summit in the past, I knew what the booths would look like so we were able to prepare pretty easily. From the minute we dropped our stuff at the booth right through to the end of the first day we were on it non-stop. It was a great buzz! Chatting to our neighbours on either side was fun and we really enjoyed catching up with the RISE team who we’ve been following on Twitter for some time (@RISEConfHQ). They’re just as friendly as their Twitter feeds portray them and it was a great way to keep up to date with what was going on. We ran a competition to win a trip for two to Tokyo which they picked up on and helpfully promoted through their social networks. 
It’s all very well having the Twitter chats with people attending the conference but it’s another thing to be immersed in it in real life. Setting up for two days of mingling, note taking and talking can take its toll especially when there's a lot of talking. By the end of it our throats were dry and scratchy from chatting non-stop about our product. Big props to our team back in Tokyo who supported us with live tweets and made sure the site was running smoothly for all the people we signed up on the day! 
Our trip planning and sharing site was well received by everyone who stopped by our booth. The purpose of our site is to demystify Japan and help people who don't speak Japanese to travel across the length and breadth of the country, and not just the usual Tokyo - Osaka corridor. We demoed our mobile site to the people that stopped by and showed them how they can download an existing trip that they think looks good, or create their own customised version to print out into a handy pocket sized guide. We had packed a few pre-printed guides to hand out and they went down really well, showing that even though we like to be online, when you're travelling, sometimes being offline can add a little something extra to your experience.
The conference had some great content - our only gripe was that we wish we had caught more of it! We also had a good few takeaways and were inspired by some great conversations with fellow booth-mates. I would highly recommend that you download the RISE App if you're going next year so that you can see who you can connect with and might want to meet. It was great to see and hear from so many like minded companies with strong missions. We left with many  ideas to put into practice for ourselves and our users.
Day two of the conference was spent attending presentations at the marketing stage. We were pretty inspired by the founder of Bonobos and the lessons he learned building an online brand: empathy, culture of company, asking your users who and what you are and what they enjoy using were some of the points he made. We had the chance to browse other booths and meet fellow startup members and we also met new ODIGO partners ABC Coffee Club one of the few Japan-based startups in attendance. 
As the event came to a close, we drew the winner for our free trip to Tokyo competition, Kim Carlotti from the company Sinergized. She's a keen photographer and was delighted to have the chance to visit us here in Tokyo, and we’re looking forward to welcoming her in December. We’ll be posting up some photos during her trip so stay tuned to see how she gets on.
It was an eye-opener to see the high level of startups in Asia at RISE and it was especially inspiring to see the passion and dedication people have for creating great products and services, helping to make the shift from working at big old companies, to small lean teams with strong missions with more appeal across the world. 
Did you attend RISE this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.