Opportunities in the South

 2019-06-18 By: InnoVEX Team

One of the speakers from the ASVDA Startup Ecosystem is Mr. Dave Ng, Head of Southeast Asia, Eight Roads Ventures. As the proprietary investment arm of Fidelity International, Eight Roads Ventures has invested in multiple companies from multiple countries in different industries. Mr. Ng shared his experiences in the Southeast Asia (SEA) market.

Large, Diverse, and Growing Region

Many companies; both established and startups have considered Southeast Asia to be a large potential market. This is supported by the large population of approximately 650 million, as well as the fast growing GDP which is now valued at USD 2.3 trillion. In addition, SEA also has a fast growing middle class; with increasing population and especially its expanding middle class whose spending powers continue to grow.

In the more emerging countries in SEA, many consumers are only able to go online by their mobile devices. As a result, mobile first approach becomes an expectation for the SEA customers and the region is projected to be the third largest mobile population. Startups in Southeast Asia also increasingly take a mobile first approach to tackle some of the largest problems in the region.

Historically, SEA has gone through several cycles or waves of innovation with a trend of moving up the value chain: starting from the focus on manufacturing and production of primary products prior to 1990; IT and internet 1.0 from mid 1990s to 2000s; and Web 2.0 from 2010s to present day. Startups in SEA aim to solve problems that might not exist or taken for granted in more developed markets such as lack of infrastructure in very distributed countries in the region. Essentially, the startups focus in enabling infrastructure and solving problems unique to Southeast Asia.

While some of these problems have existed decades ago, these classic problems in modern times should not be solved using classical solutions, but modern technologies. SEA entrepreneurs use technologies to solve these market problems, build infrastructure, and create backbones needed for digital economies. These aspects are expected to continue to be the focus in the near future. In addition, several entrepreneurs are also dabbling in deep tech or enterprise technologies; however this area is still in its early stages.

1 Region, 10 Countries

Southeast Asia as a region consists of 10 countries with very different cultures and different level of maturity in terms of business, ease of doing business, etc. This means both investors and entrepreneurs who are interested in entering SEA will have to pay attention to these operational & market contrasts in addition to the subtle nuances. To circumvent this issue, Mr. Ng suggested forming partnerships with people who understand the market and advance together.

The Southeast Asia tech ecosystem is still in its early days, but the number of venture funds continues to increase from all sources: local, regional, and global.

To watch the full forum session, visit our YouTube channel here.