Highlights Although we’ve successfully sold more than 1 million AR flashcards to sixty countries, I’m still not satisfied. And I also believe that this technology can benefit a lot of sectors and reach a broader audience. So the challenge is how to simplify the process and empower everyone with simple tools to create and […]

S03E08: Hasbi Asyadiq, CEO of Assemblr on building Southeast Asia’s Canva for Augmented Reality and Growing with Global Accelerators

Highlights

  1. Although we’ve successfully sold more than 1 million AR flashcards to sixty countries, I’m still not satisfied. And I also believe that this technology can benefit a lot of sectors and reach a broader audience. So the challenge is how to simplify the process and empower everyone with simple tools to create and access AR content easily and somehow build the flywheel effect around it.
  2. The biggest highlight is the fact that [Techstars] helped us sharpen our product to be really focused on the target audience and also how to run the product development on the tech side because there’s also an ex-CTO or senior engineering guy who helped us to give us the best approach on how to develop and iterate our product, how to talk to users.
  3. In this industry, especially in the AR industry, the biggest challenge is how to fit this technology with the right use cases. And entering into an accelerator like Techstars or Facebook validates our product, that this technology or this product can be relevant to future advancement or will affect the future interacting with information.
  4. So I believe momentum is one of the important keys for this technology to be adopted on a massive scale…[and] we already have millions of content ready to access or ready to deploy…and I believe it is not long from now because all the signs are there. We also can see that from our numbers. The future is coming.
  5. And the fact that our technology has been adopted in education validates that our technology is so simple and easy to use, and this technology can also benefit not only education, but also, interestingly in e-commerce.
  6. And the number one challenge is to bring this product to people so that they can understand the value, can understand the benefit, and shift their mindset that AR is nice to have to AR is a need…it can help them save costs, save time and increase sales, et cetera…[but] we alone cannot do that. That’s why I work with big enterprises and big companies. They can help us in terms of echoing the message from us, because they already have thousands of customers.

In this episode we have on-call Hasbi Asyadiq, founder and CEO of Assemblr, an Indonesian augmented reality platform with a global user base. And one of the leaders in this space in Southeast Asia. They’re also often called the Canva for augmented reality here in the region. So we’ve invited Hasbi today to go on call with us as Assemblr is just fresh off the Techstars program. And we wanted to learn more about their experience in this globally renowned accelerator and also for them to share with our listeners about the company and the moves that they have been making in the augmented reality and education space in the past four years. 

Timestamps

01:30 Introducing Assemblr;

03:04 All about Hasbi’s Techstars experience;

05:14 Advice on how to get into Techstars;

06:25 Role of Techstars and Facebook Accelerator in growth of Assemblr;

08:05 Introducing Assembler’s ecosystem;

11:00 How Assembler adoption has changed during the pandemic;

13:19 Exploring use cases for AR in Indonesia beyond education;

15:23 Working with corporations and big companies to drive AR adoption;

17:25 Case Studies working with one of Indonesia’s big banks and Ducati;

19:08 Future of Assemblr in the next 5 years;

20:00 Hasbi’s Rapid Fire Round;

Transcript

Paulo: So Assemblr has become a go-to platform for education through augmented reality, with more than 1.6 million projects created with almost 24 million views. And among Assemblr’s clients are YouTube Music, Ducati, Google, and the World Wildlife Fund. So apart from being Techstars alumni, Assemblr is also a member of the Facebook Accelerator Singapore cohort last year. And it’s been a privilege for us at Insignia to have been partnered with such an innovative company. And one that is really changing the game, especially in the education space here in the region. So now, to share more about his experiences, let me welcome on the show Hasbi Asyadiq! How are you doing Hasbi?

Hasbi: Hello. I’m doing great. Thank you, Paulo. How are you? 

Paulo: I’m good. Thanks. And it’s great to have you now on the show and apart from introducing us to the augmented reality space, you’re the first person who comes from that space on our show. It would be also great to learn more about your own experiences as a tech CEO, as we haven’t been able to interview that many tech CEOs yet on the show. So first things first, how did you become founder and CEO of Assemblr to introduce yourself to our listeners? 

Hasbi: Sure. Hi, I’m Hasbi, I’m the founder and CEO of Assemblr. So, maybe let me tell a little bit of a story about how I became the founder CEO of Assemblr. So I was a CTO of our company called octagon studio back then. So, back then I was leading the engineering team to build the product and during my journey, I somehow found and understood the bottleneck of the AR industry. And one of them lies on the tech side. Back then it cost me a year to make one series of AR flashcards that consists of 26 contents. And to build one, we need a lot of resources from 3d artists or a programmer. It is multi-disciplinary. It takes a long process to create. It is expensive. Although we’ve successfully sold more than 1 million AR flashcards to sixty countries, I’m still not satisfied. And I also believe that this technology can benefit a lot of sectors and reach a broader audience. So the challenge is how to simplify the process and empower everyone with simple tools to create and access AR content easily and somehow build the flywheel effect around it. With my 10 years of experience in this industry, I step up to take this challenge to democratize AR and bring AR to the masses. 

Although we’ve successfully sold more than 1 million AR flashcards to sixty countries, I’m still not satisfied. And I also believe that this technology can benefit a lot of sectors and reach a broader audience. So the challenge is how to simplify the process and empower everyone with simple tools to create and access AR content easily and somehow build the flywheel effect around it.

Paulo: Yeah, that sounds great. And I think the fact that you guys are being called the Canva for AR is definitely a testament to the fact that you have been able to simplify things in terms of AR content creation. And I want to talk more about what you said about flywheeling later on, but first things first, I want to congratulate you again for having graduated from the Techstars program. yeah. And yeah, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners, especially like the founders among them, are interested to know what it’s like to be a part of that program. How did you end up being part of that cohort, what was the experience there and what are the learnings or things that you gained from the program that could help with Assemblr moving forward? 

Hasbi: Yeah. So actually it’s very challenging to juggle between Techstars and running a company. Juggling between developing the product, running the business, interacting with the customers and doing the Techstars program is definitely not an easy task. So it costs me around like 14 hours on average every day for the last three months to cope with everything. But it is worth it because we are in good hands. 

Techstars has a very, very strong network of mentors, really great resources. We got a lot of invaluable advice and the approach is very hands-on. We got four dedicated lead mentors that work with us day-to-day. The biggest highlight is the fact that they help us sharpen our product to be really focused on the target audience and also how to run the product development on the tech side, because there’s also an ex-CTO or senior engineering guy who helped us to give us the best approach on how to develop and iterate our product, how to talk to users. It’s very fundamental for us. And it was very transformative for Assemblr and for me personally, also.

And it’s opened the door to Techstars’ network and connections, and also the door to […] region since this Techstars program is in collaboration with hub 71. Techstars has supported over 2,500 startups with a total market capitalization of 33 billion us dollars since 2006 across various industries. So being the 2% who got accepted to Techstars is really an achievement for us. So really happy to be in the Techstars family. 

Paulo: Yeah, it’s great. I mean, you seem definitely relieved that you finally finished it since it must’ve been pretty exhausting. But I’m sure you also gained a lot. You met a lot of valuable mentors and learned a lot from that program. And I mean, there are definitely benefits even after the program itself, being connected to that network. Do you have any advice for founders out there who are thinking about joining, maybe not just the Techstars program in particular, but any accelerator, and you have to balance running the company and gaining as much as you can from these programs. So what advice do you have in terms of that?`

Hasbi: Techstars is one of the biggest accelerators in the world, so they are looking for a company that can build a product that can have an impact on a massive scale. Also [I would advise to] be concise of who’s your target audience, and really understand the problem, the challenges. Also show your strong traction. And show that your company can be a very big company by addressing those problems. So I believe that those are the important criteria to be accepted in Techstars and I believe it is hard as there’s some luck factor that also plays behind because, as I mentioned, it’s only 2% who are accepted to the program around the world.

The biggest highlight is the fact that [Techstars] help us sharpen our product to be really focused on the target audience and also how to run the product development on the tech side, because there’s also an ex-CTO or senior engineering guy who helped us to give us the best approach on how to develop and iterate our product, how to talk to users.

Paulo: It’s almost like an Ivy League university acceptance rate. So congratulations on that. But Techstars isn’t the only accelerator that you’ve been a part of. You joined Facebook’s accelerator cohort last year, so I was just wondering how these programs fit? Because not all companies see accelerators as valuable for them, and it really depends on the company. So for Assemblr, what’s the value of being a part of these different accelerators in terms of your product and your business model? 

Hasbi: Sure. In this industry, especially in the AR industry, the biggest challenge is how to fit this technology with the right use cases. And entering into an accelerator like Techstars or Facebook validates our product, that this technology or this product can be relevant to future advancement or will affect the future interacting with information. Take Facebook, for example, why we are joining Facebook because Facebook is one of the tech giants that is really focused on augmented reality. It’s why they are developing their own augmented reality glasses for the consumer. Because they believe the way people access information in the future, it will be through augmented reality and it is not Facebook alone. Other tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google are developing their own augmented reality glasses. And the fact that 5G connectivity and all the advancement is supporting that kind of future. And we are lucky. I was mentored by a Facebook tech expert back then in the accelerator that’s specialized in AR and Spark AR back then. And AR is one of the biggest things that Facebook will bring to the mass audience in the future. So we got a glimpse also on our adoption moving forward. So I believe it’s very beneficial for companies like us. 

In this industry, especially in the AR industry, the biggest challenge is how to fit this technology with the right use cases. And entering into an accelerator like Techstars or Facebook validates our product, that this technology or this product can be relevant to future advancement or will affect the future interacting with information.

Paulo: Yeah, that just goes to show how you have to really be strategic as well. You don’t just join the accelerator because it’s a prestigious accelerator, for example, or just for the brand name, there is really a purpose behind it. There’s an alignment between Assemblr and Facebook, for example, in terms of where you see AR going in the future. And speaking of products, I just wanted to introduce the listeners a bit more to what these products do and the whole ecosystem that Assemblr has created. So I guess if anybody goes to their website right now, you’ll see three things, the app, which is mainly for consumers, the studio for businesses, and then the education product. So could you tell our listeners more about these different offerings and how they interact with each other in this ecosystem that Assemblr has created?  

Hasbi: Sure. So the difference between each line is for the Assemblr app, it’s our app that’s running on iOS and Android, basically on the mobile operating system. It can run on a smartphone or tablet. So basically you can create an augmented reality content as easily as drag and drop. So, as I mentioned previously, Canva for AR, so the approach is similar, so it can create an AR design. You don’t need to understand how to create the remodel, or how to do some programming. You just grab the ready-to-use content. We have thousands of them, and you just compose them. You build your scene, consisting of 3D model animations, text, video, and interactivity, and all can be done within minutes using that app. 

And we cover mobile and also desktop actually. So that’s why we are creating Assemblr Studio, which facilitates a user from a desktop operating system. So it supports macOS and Windows too, because sometimes, in the case of, for instance, on the education use case, some schools are not allowing their students to bring smartphones. So they still can use the computer in their lab to run Assemblr Studio, to create an augmented world experience or augmented reality lessons in their environment. And that’s the Assemblr app and Studio; they are linked. And it basically facilitates the user to create an augmented reality easily because previously it’s so hard. It is now a seamless drag and drop. 

And Assemblr Edu is our answer to the demand that’s happening during the COVID situations. Again, we are seeing massive adoption from schools, universities, and teachers. They’re starting to create their own local community in their countries. They help us localize Assemblr in their own countries because they love what we built and they’ve seen the value of implementing Assemblr into their lessons. So that’s why we are spinning off a new app called Assemblr Edu that is inherited from the Assemblr core itself, but it’s specific for education. So there are some functions that are very specific for education, like virtual class, topics that are related to the curriculum.  So we are building some functionality and content that is specific for education to address this demand and challenges. 

Paulo: Yeah. I think we’re seeing here the start of what you mentioned earlier, that flywheel effect, where you have the app for the Canva for AR, as you mentioned, and the studio is the core, and then as you see the demand for this education use case, you then flywheel out that kind of technology through this Edu app that you guys are working on. So I think it’s really interesting how this ecosystem has evolved over the years. There’s definitely a lot more space for it to evolve even further, but I also wanted to ask you, given that augmented reality, even today, is still seen by many people as a sort of very frontier technology. I wanted to ask also from a user perspective, you touched on it a bit with the Assemblr Edu, how has it changed significantly with the pandemic?  

Hasbi: Yes, indeed. Pandemic somehow accelerates the adoptions, maybe 10 years ahead because previously, we have a huge challenge on educating the market, since this technology is new for many, even though, for some techie guys who follow the technology development it is not new, but for the majority of us, it is a new thing. And to educate the market is such a big challenge and COVID accelerates the adoption, and we feel like this situation is flipped. So previously, we are actively educating and trying so hard to convince people that this technology is very useful for your use case, whether it is for education or for your business. But now those situations are flipped. They are contacting us to ask us to help them implement the technology into their business process. So I believe momentum is one of the important keys for this technology to be adopted on a massive scale. So we feel the momentum is coming, especially, when 5G is coming, and definitely will change the behavior of how people interact with information and what kind of type of information they can digest or interact with. And the tech giants that are creating or building augmented reality glasses will also disrupt the way people access information. And when this [device] is ready, we already have millions of content ready to access or ready to deploy to that future device. And I believe it is not long from now because all the signs are there. We also can see that from our numbers. The future is coming. 

So I believe momentum is one of the important keys for this technology to be adopted on a massive scale…[and] we already have millions of content ready to access or ready to deploy…and I believe it is not long from now because all the signs are there. We also can see that from our numbers. The future is coming.

Paulo: Yeah, I can really see that you guys are prepared. You’re preparing yourselves for this wave that’s already coming, that you’re seeing coming, especially from joining these accelerators that we’ve talked about earlier. You’re seeing how Facebook is already developing the hardware that’s compatible with the content that you’ve created. And also as you mentioned, the emergence of 5G and all of these puzzle pieces coming together, especially here in Southeast Asia, where you could say AR is really still new. I wanted to zoom in a little bit into education as one of the main uses of Assemblr. You’ve talked a lot about it in your previous answer, but I also wanted to ask what is it like for the end user making use of this Assemblr platform? Maybe you have some interesting stories, from on-the-ground, from students or schools that have used this platform. And how do you see AR playing a bigger role in edtech for Indonesia moving forward?

Hasbi: So I believe in order for this technology to be adopted on a massive scale, it has to have a seamless integration factor. So the content that is created using Assemblr can integrate into their LMS, because some school or university, they have their own or they use Google Classroom or Edmodo. With Assemblr, they can create a 3D content or AR content with very rich interactivity and they can embed it into their current ecosystem or current technology that they use. And I believe that will transition or make a bridge for the early user or early adopter, because they are only familiar with Google classroom, for instance. And then there’s a new type of content, like 3D and AR that we can infuse and bring to the even bigger audience.

And the fact that our technology has been adopted in education validates that our technology is so simple and easy to use, and this technology can also benefit not only education, but also, interestingly in e-commerce. So a seller can start creating or presenting their product and they can embed it into Tokopedia or Bukalapak to strengthen the presence of their product. So their customer can check the product in 3D, in AR to check if the sofa is right in terms of the size, the color. So it can enrich the experience in ecommerce too. 

And the fact that our technology has been adopted in education validates that our technology is so simple and easy to use, and this technology can also benefit not only education, but also, interestingly in e-commerce.

Paulo:  Yeah, it’d be really interesting to see those live streaming e-commerce incorporate some like AR contents into their streams. And speaking of Indonesia and your journey, it’s been four years now since 2017. What are some of the key lessons that you’ve picked up as the CEO of Assemblr thus far?

Hasbi: Yeah, so we are in the deep tech industry, with immersive technology, it needs some time for the technology to be developed, to be accepted to the mass audience. It’s a very big challenge for us. But this kind of future is inevitable since, as I mentioned before, tech giant will drive the adoption and also 5G advancement, et cetera. So, I have to be really, really agile in terms of managing the resources, building the company and prove that this technology is not a gimmick, it can be useful for your business. It’s such a great challenge for me. And the number one challenge is to bring this product to people so that they can understand the value, can understand the benefit, and shift their mindset that AR is nice to have to AR is a need. That it is not only gimmicky or nice to have, but it can help them save costs, save time and increase sales, et cetera. So we have to bring that mindset to the mass audience and we alone cannot do that. That’s why I work with big enterprises and big companies. They can help us in terms of echoing the message from us, because they already have thousands of customers. So once the businesses adopt Assemblr, the technology is also being echoed to their user base or their customer. So it is very challenging, but the way we found is the most efficient to go to market or to educate the market. So far I enjoy the journey. I love so much to be on the frontier. So a lot of big companies trust us to work with them together including Apple, WWF, Google, Ducati, they see us as a leader of the AR industry. And that’s the proof that for these four years we are running on the right path and moving forward, it will be even bigger and even stronger going forward.

And the number one challenge is to bring this product to people so that they can understand the value, can understand the benefit, and shift their mindset that AR is nice to have to AR is a need…it can help them save costs, save time and increase sales, et cetera…[but] we alone cannot do that. That’s why I work with big enterprises and big companies. They can help us in terms of echoing the message from us, because they already have thousands of customers.

Paulo: You’ve mentioned a couple of examples of use cases like education and e-commerce. Could you explain a little bit more about how you guys turn that mindset from gimmicky and nice to have and turning that into AR actually makes a difference in terms of how you sell the product. Do you have a case study on that for a specific client or customer, for example. 

Hasbi: Yeah, we do. So we are working with one of the biggest banks in Indonesia, so they are asking us to provide technology into their onboarding process. So our technology helps them to automate or visualize their training activity on how to operate some machinery, but using Assemblr, they just need to point the device into the machine. And then the augmentations will show on top of that machine what to press and what to close, to open and they just need to follow the steps in the mixed reality environment. And it’s really useful because they don’t need to ask, for instance, for a technician to fix some little error on their machine. They just use Assemblr to self-fix the problem.

And it is useful for delivering the information about the product. Say in the case with Ducati, they present their big bike in an AR format for their customer who cannot go to the actual store or to the offline store. They can project the bike in their living room and play around with the bike, change the color, change the accessories, change the parts. And then there’s also some simulations of the cost. And then they can start talking with the salesperson. So that kind of case became more and more popular especially when COVID struck, so the company had to bring their product to the hands of the customer. So a customer can check the product in 3D and AR format in their home relatively easily. 

Paulo: Yeah. I think those are really good examples because they demonstrate sort of how businesses that use AR technology can future-proof their own operations, especially in times of a pandemic, for example. Speaking of looking forward to things, how, where do you see Assemblr in the next five years? 

Hasbi: So I see Assemblr become the leader in immersive technology, in AR of course, and we are used widely, whether as a standalone tool to create augmented reality content or as a technology that can be integrated into the ecommerce or into AdTech platform. Assemblr can be in that position within five years to be the biggest player, especially in Southeast Asia.

Rapid Fire Round

Top Three Skills of a CEO?

Hasbi: Risk-taker, because fortune favors the brave. Second one is to be a leader communicator. And the third one is you have to have a growth mindset. 

Top Three Skills of a CTO?

Hasbi: Extensive technical knowledge, of course, because you need to cover or understand quite a large area of technology. Second one is again good communication skills and management. The third one would be staying up to date with the latest tech trends.  

What’s one misconception people have about AR?

Hasbi: So the misconceptions would be that AR is a gimmick. Second one is that the implementation of AR is still far away. And the third one is that AR is hard to create. 

Advice for early-stage founders in Indonesia?

Hasbi: For an early-stage founder, I believe, you need to be focused on three things. One is to build the product. Second one is to talk to users, and then the third one is to iterate. 

Advice for raising your first round?

Hasbi: Firstly I have to understand the investor landscape because investors come in many different shapes and forms, right. Research them before you reach out, or else you’ll waste your time and the investor’s time. Second one is you need to differentiate [yourself] from the other startups and stand out in some ways because investors come across a hundred plus companies weekly. So you have to be different, right? The third one is the investment thesis. Make sure that your company fits with their thesis of the investor. Also check their portfolio, know exactly what type of firm they invested in and the last, but not least is no is the norm. Investors are always looking for a reason to say no, and some pass on Facebook, Airbnb, Google, YouTube, et cetera. So do not take it personally and always leave on good terms as you never know what the future holds. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

Hasbi: Steak, Gordon Ramsay’s recipe.

What do you do to de-stress?

Hasbi: I love to play music. I do play several instruments, like piano, bass, violin and guitar, and sometimes I write music too.

Anything you’d like to promote/share?

Hasbi: Please go to our website assemblrworld.com and have a try. So prove that making AR content can be as easy as drag and drop. You can make your own AR within a minute. 

About our guest

Hasbi Asyadiq, CEO and co-founder of Assemblr

Hasbi Asyadiq is the founder and CEO of Assemblr. Prior to Assemblr, he was co-founder and CTO of Octagon Studio, a tech startup specializing in AR and VR products and solutions. He is currently an alumnus of the Techstars Program, having joined it this year, and an alumnus of the Facebook Accelerator program in Singapore from the 2020 cohort. He has had a decade experience engineering and designing 3D, AR, and VR solutions and applications, hence his deep involvement in the space in Indonesia.

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