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Credit: Plastics for Change

Ideas Made to Matter


These 12 startups are reimagining the Asian workplace and workforce


Job matching for women, a recycling program aimed at low-income waste pickers, a digital welfare platform, a mobile-friendly resource for migrant workers in search of health care.

The 12 Asia finalists of the global MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge are “reinventing the future of work in Asia,” according to the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

The challenge is the flagship program of the initiative, which launched a worldwide competition divided into five regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

“If we employ inclusive innovation globally, it could be the best thing that ever happened to humanity,” Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the initiative, said in a statement. “We can have more wealth, better health, and widely held prosperity.”

The 2018 IIC has two rounds, according to the program’s website. The first round involves 12 selected startups across four categories competing at “celebration events” in their home continents. The four categories are skills development and opportunity matching, financial inclusion, income growth and job creation, and technology access. The competitors are judged on vision, impact, participation, and scalability.

The winner of each category then goes on to compete in November during the Global Grand Prize Gala at MIT. The gala includes four $250,000 prizes, one for each category.

The Asia finalists are traveling to Bangkok, Thailand, in late August, where they will pitch their ideas at a regional competition.

More than 160 registrants from 25 countries applied for the Asia competition. The 12 Asia finalists are:

Skills development and opportunity matching  

Connected Women Connected Women is a job-matching site for female entrepreneurs and Filipino women looking for remote work.

Gnowbe Gnowbe is a software as a service that offers workforce training on a mobile platform.

iMerit iMerit hires and trains low income workers for jobs involving machine learning.

Income growth and job creation  

Plastics for Change Plastics for Change offers a mobile platform for companies and urban waste pickers to connect and recycle used plastic.

Ricult Ricult connects farmers with food buyers, as well as with information like agricultural data and credit terms.

STORM STORM offers two kinds of software designed for flexibility around a company’s employee benefits.

Financial inclusion  

CreditEase CreditEase is behind the YiNongDai Puvblic Welfare platform, which connects low income borrowers with people who can lend them loans.

ftcash ftcash offers software and hardware for micro-merchants and small businesses to use and accept digital payments and loans.

Kinara Capital Kinara Capital provides unsecured business loans to small businesses in India.

Technology access  

Interview Air Interview Air is a video-based interviewing and skills development service.

Simple Motion Sdn Bhd (ClicknCare) Simple Motion Sdn Bhd is a mobile-friendly health care platform for migrant workers.

SOLShare SOLShare uses its technology to support peer-to-peer solar energy trading.