• Tech Ecosystem Insights

    Startups across MENA are concentrated in the UAE,

    Racha Ghamlouch - GST Dubai/Middle East Chapter Connector

     

    Around 65% of investment into tech startups across MENA is concentrated in the UAE, particularly Dubai, which is no surprise as 65% of regional equity investors are based there as well. There remains a challenge in diversity though as fewer than 15% of investors are female across the region, and that’s reflected in the founders receiving funding. Even though the biggest marketplace marketplaces are in Saudi and Egypt.

    Insights on the Malaysia Start-up Scene

    Jack Lim - GST Malaysia Chapter Leader

    Having experienced political reforms in 2018, Malaysia is poised to enter a period of economic growth powered by technology adoption, an enlarged service economy and stronger private sector participation thus accelerating towards the high income nation status.

     

    Historically a trading nation, Malaysia is well set to be a vital platform for information, technology and talent exchange between both the East and West and North and South. Strategically located in the heart of South East Asia, it also serves as a natural springboard into the 680 million population in this corner of the Asian region for trade and commerce. The past 20 years have seen unprecedented investments by the government on infrastructure projects like roads, ports (where Malaysia is the 2nd Digital Free Trade Zone after Hangzhou, China) and connectivity including the recent announcements on 5G broadband. We see the partnership with Global South Tech furthering our quest to position Malaysia to adequately retain and attract world class talent and host events that will increase prosperity, drive sustainability and further improve the living standards of the population.

    Japanese companies can learn a lot from Startups in South East Asia

    Shunsuke Miyatake - Cambodia GST Chapter Connector

     

    The Cambodian Tech Community is small but very speedy and also passionate. The market is alive and active, but the size is still small and not very attractive to big companies. But as a product test market Cambodians are very flexible.


    Japanese companies are not fully open yet, and they tend to look for their opportunities in Silicon Valley or Europe. I want to collect genuine startup insights, talent, technologies from South East Asia and introduce to the Japanese market.


    I initiated Toyota Impact Challenge collaborating with Impact HUB Phnom Penh supported by Toyota. We finally funded SmartBin Cambodia, a smart recycling startup.


    I’m from Japan, born in Kobe, and grew up in Yokohama. Now I’m working in ADK, a communication agency in Japan as a Director of Cambodia Representative Office since 2016.

    Cambodian startups are motivated by frustration or lack of locally available services

    Sopheap Im - GST Cambodia Chapter leader

     

    Most of the problems that startups are trying to solve in Cambodia are motivated by frustration or lack of locally available services vs from a regional or global perspective. Local startups are inspired by big tech corporates. Hunger for success and self-actualization have been the driver for young entrepreneurs to leapfrog their entrepreneurial journeys.

     

    A well-connected ecosystem is needed for young startups to grow and scale, such as affordable co-working space, mentorship, seed funding, venture capital from corporates, tax incentive programs and ease of doing business as regulatory framework goes.

     

    The tech community in Cambodia has been a grassroots effort until it caught the attention, backing, and support from corporates and government. Including the Ministry of Posts, Telecoms and ITC, Smart Axiata, Impact Hub, Mekong Business Model Competition, and Startup Weekend.

     

    Raintree, a creative office development in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has just released a very insightful 2018 report on Cambodia Tech Startups Ecosystem. The future of tech startups in Cambodia has never looked more promising. Just 5 years ago, no one would have thought that a laptop manufacturer would exist here. But last year Koompi launched its first open-source and affordable laptops targeting students from low-income families.

     

    PassApp Taxi is another startup example created in Cambodia has still maintained a strong market share despite Grab's entry in the market

    Cambodia has embraced the principles of the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

    Sokunmealea Tiv - GST Cambodia Chapter Co-organizer, Connector

     

    At the verge of catching up with global technology trends as in the advancement of AI, cognitive computing, predictive analytics based decision making, machine learning, and IoT. Cambodia has embraced the principles of the fourth industrial revolution; the tech community has, therefore, become a core part of securing the country’s e-readiness.

     

    Recent data on penetration for mobile and internet subscriptions rated at 117% and 84% of total population accordingly, amongst which 70% is under the age of 30; the ever-increasing presence of international and local tech/startup incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces the establishment of STEM and TVET to bridge the gaps between education and industries; the government initiative to create physical infrastructure, Techo Startup Center, as a nesting space for startup-ers.

     

    All these developments have crafted basic, yet promising, startup foundation within the local tech community. Nevertheless, comparing to developed ASEAN countries, Cambodia is still struggling in the aspects of Legal Framework- Network and Data Privacy- Security and User Protection, Human Capital (skillsets and expertise- product design and development as such), Fund Access (short reach and limited), Policy Framework (engagement and advancement), Technology Infrastructure/Networks, Incentive Scheme for Technology Adoption, Education System Restructuring and Tech-Society Awareness Building.


     

    Our startup ecosystem is young and full of grit -- a reflection of the untapped talent in the

    Philippines

    Alea Ladaga - GST Philippines Connector


    Since the birth of the PH startup ecosystem in the last decade or so, multiple players have emerged, which have one unifying goal in mind: finding the next big Philippine startup and shining the spotlight on the spirit of innovation here in the Philippines. While we have a long way to go, in the past year key milestones have been achieved.

    The local Department of Information and Communications Technology, Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Department of Science and Technology - the government trifecta individually spearheading projects supporting startups - have come up with a roadmap to align their efforts in educating and attracting new players into the dynamic world of tech and innovation. The government has partnered up with the private sector to create the QBO Innovation Hub, an initiative designed to provide assistance to the startup ecosystem regardless of their stage or point of origin. More traditional corporations with big names that have shaped the local economy are now seen adapting to the changing times, by recognizing the need for innovation and doing test runs as to how to integrate startups into their operations.

    The ecosystem, as a result, is exponentially zestful and aggressively pushing forward, with more of the general public becoming more aware of the importance of startups in the economy. In turn, the traditional systems engineered within academia have learned to adjust by providing curriculums that will help students adapt to the digital disruption happening globally. As a testament to our success in nurturing the startups living under our roof, multiple startups have achieved their milestones through their own grit, resilience and business savviness.

     

    We have had startups who have exited, received funding, explored new markets internationally, been featured on media outlets both local and international, and partnered with big names through corporate partnerships and supply chain integration -- all in the course of a year.

    While startups and innovation have not been on the forefront compared to more traditional industries, more of the younger generation are choosing the path of innovation and entrepreneurship, using new technologies that can affect change in both the local and regional scale. There is a lot of noise and hope to stir from this emerging trend, particularly because fresh blood means new ideas, and a uniquely inspiring breath of fresh air needed to fuel the growth of the ecosystem

    The country is brimming with talents with huge entrepreneurial potential, but there are still foundational building blocks missing to harness this potential and turn the PH into a startup magnate. Part of it is related to bridging opportunities for capital and publicity to educate the mass market on startups, and further building the entrepreneurial capabilities of the youth alongside teaching the previous generation new tricks in this digital age. It is an enigma that is familiar to most emerging markets -- how do we expedite the process of aligning traditional methods with more innovative ways of doing business?

    I work as a community builder in the Philippines, trying to fit as many pieces of the puzzle as I can by organizing events that would connect people and that would provide the safe space needed to talk with more transparency about their needs as startup players in the Philippines. I believe in the power of the youth in encouraging this discussion of building mutually beneficial strategies, learning through a simple question of “How can I help you today?”

     

    Korea Start-up Scene - You Piss Me Off, but I Still Love You

    Marta Allina - GST Korea Chapter Leader

     

    After quitting my job, I finally got time to do everything I wanted to focus my time on: meeting inspirational people, Startup Weekend and working on new crossfit skills. But most importantly, I finally had time to launch Seoul Startups.

     

    What is Seoul Startups?

     

    It started as a brainchild of 2 expat UX designers, who recognized a need for some sort of networking space for people like themselves: foreigners who work in the realm of startups and startup organizations in Korea. The thing is, as much as the Korean government trumpets Seoul as being the global startup hub of the future, the current facilities, events, programs, offers are 98% in the Korean language.

    Alas, there was a need for something, so the two guys created a website with an extension to a Slack group, where people could share information about doing business in Korea, experiences, news, job posts and anything else that was somehow connected to the local startup scene.

     

    At one point the founders left Korea, asking me to continue managing the community. So with 400 members and growing, I decided to hold our first offline event on February 19th.

     

    30 people showed up, including Minha Kim from MoneyToday, who wrote a nice article about us.

     

    But instead of just sitting around and ‘networking’, I initiated a team discussion on what the current local startup scene is for us and what we could do, as a community, to improve it. I would like to share the results of that with you.

     

    The Good

     

    Korea is a highly-dense, consumption-focused market (especially with cosmetics and beauty but not only), equipped with highly efficient, high-speed network infrastructure. ‘High-speed’ is a keyword here: not only when it comes to telco technology but also in work, life, delivery services etc. You don’t have to wait around too long for anything here.

     

    Whatever gets said later on, it must be acknowledged that the government support for startups (in diverse sectors) is HUGE here when it comes to funding, education, overseas promotion.

     

    The local workforce is very well-educated, very smart and capable. Multiple free coworking spaces and living prices lower than SF or NYC, together with startup visa program (OASIS), sums up to be a very good basis for turning Korea into an international startup/tech scene.

     

    The Bad

     

    Let’s start with the government programs ﹘ There are too many. On top of being run very inefficiently (*cough* shadily) by civil servants whose business and startup knowledge is limited to ‘Startups101 on Weekend’, there are just. too. many. That results in very little community and organic support and a heavy reliance on consistent government grants (as long as you use ‘keywords’ of the year in your applications). But most importantly – startups are not failing. Failing is part of being an entrepreneur. You fail 100 times or more before something kicks off. And each time you learn and grow as a bigger person. But in Korea failing business is seen as failing as a person (also from the law-standpoint!). With the declining economy, the government is determined to have companies not go under officially, to keep numbers up, and unemployment down (that’s not working very well, recently).

     

    Regarding VCs, the funds are mostly government grants. There may be some Korean ‘unicorns’, but really are they? And have we heard about any successful exits?

    And on top of that, all of that support is not available to foreigners. Not that they are not eligible (with the right visa and a registered business), but the whole K-Startup website is only in Korean and works most efficiently on Internet Explorer. With Seoul Startups, I’m trying to change that, but there is only so much I can do non-profit and in my spare time.

     

    And then we have more social issues. Even the ‘young and funky’ startup scene is conservative, rather passive, and generally comprised of middle-aged and older gentlemen (VERY limited female founder scene). It’s hard to network, not only as a non-Korean speaking foreigner, but also as a younger person (god forbid female), without proper, prior connections. Not to mention, most networking events are… NOT fun.

     

    What can we do?

     

    We won’t change the world overnight. And we certainly cannot change Korea, the country where we are guests. But we can start taking small steps, that may inspire and impact people here to make the startup scene a better place for everyone.

    • Continue building a vibrant community with a strong clear voice. Maybe one day that voice will reach the decision-makers.
    • Sharing information, solutions and experiences – ‘give first’ is my favorite motto. We all go through some tough situations here, but maybe someone out there already went through something similar and can share advice on how to get out of the hump? We may not be able to rely on government agencies too much, but startup organizations can count on each other.
    • Holding regular events/meetup in English, where people can network, learn, discuss, and most importantly, have fun.
    • (as foreigners) Learn Korean, learn English (as Koreans).
    • In the long-term create an impactful global event like Slush, WebSummit or Rise, where the main theme is FUN.  
    • Creating strong community support for entrepreneurs, something like the Family. Showing the Korean startupers that they don’t have to be government/corporate dependent and the world is really their own oyster.

    What do you think? Where should the Korean startup scene go on from here? Where can we take it to?