In the first seven months of this year tech startups in Southeast Asia received US$5 billion, almost double the US$2.6 billion received in 2016. With 600 million consumers, a growing middle class and over 320 million internet users, Southeast Asia presents a huge opportunity for startups and investors.
Our 11th Early-Stage Innovation Briefing focused on ‘The Southeast Asian Opportunity’. Held at KPMG Australia’s Sydney offices at Barangaroo, attendees discussed the development of the startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia and the opportunity this young, mobile-first population provides.
Our Managing Partner, Jeremy Colless, provided an overview of our funds’ performance to date, discussed the burgeoning startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia as well Artesian’s ambitions in the region.
Startup stand up:
First up was the startup stand up where we invited founders from three of Artesian’s portfolio companies including Dr Adrian Cohen from HeadsafeIP, Emma Poposka from bron.tech and Zakaria Bouguettaya from QPay.
All three companies gave an update on their progress and highlighted the unique problems that they solve using different technologies. It has been great to see how the companies have grown and learn about the unique markets in which they operate.
The final segment of the night was the panel and Q&A, moderated by our Managing Director, Vicky Lay. Our panellists included Bobby Liu (Director at Topica Founders Institute in Vietnam), Peter Huynh (Partner at Qualgro VC), Rosary Coloma (Manager of International Engagement at The Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Creative Intelligence Unit, UTS) and Stuart Fox (Partner at Artesian Venture Partners).
“What’s exciting [in Southeast Asia] are the evolving business models from B2C models around commerce and social, towards B2B business models with greater specialisation and differentiation from a technological perspective” – Peter Huynh
Our panel of experts discussed the startup landscape in South East Asia, all agreeing that Singapore is the central hub, with most companies domiciled in Singapore, yet operating in other countries. Unique talent is then sourced from other countries in the region, for example Vietnam is known as the leading engineering hub.
“Being on the ground in all these native markets is the greatest opportunity as you can understand the differences in each country” – Stuart Fox
The panel also discussed exits, highlighting how startups in the region are becoming more mature and consequently we are seeing more IPOs and Series C rounds. The level of VC interest in the region is increasing, with Bobby noting that five years ago if three VCs visited, it was a good year, while today three VCs will visit Vietnam every month.
“Two months ago, VNG, which is one of the first [Vietnamese] gaming companies announced they will list on Nasdaq next year… it will probably be in the $2-3 billion region” – Bobby Liu
In terms of scale across the region, it is important to remember that there are significant differences across the region. Often founders come in with exciting ideas, however they must appeal to the homogenous culture of the specific country. New trends in the region were identified, with the push towards deep tech solutions as founders have begun focusing on differentiation.
“One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not adapting to the culture of each country in the region” – Rosary Coloma
We thank everyone who joined us on the night and we hope to see you at our next quarterly event.