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  • Jack Lau

Billion Dollar Startup in South East Asia: They can; Can We?


Just not too long ago, the trick to be successful in this part of the world seems to be

  1. To find a business model that works really well in the United States;

  2. To borrow the idea; localize it. And bang, you are there.

  3. To add a little bit of spice, get an American or overseas investors to support you. They will because it is easy to see how 1.3 billion people is the biggest market in the world.

  4. Finally, when one becomes successful, then you list the entity on NASDAQ or NYSE. Home Run!

And, really only recently, people are beginning to say that the above model is outdated. That southern China or rest of Asia is totally unique, as the argument goes. On top of that, who cares about listing in America, where the investors and regulations often prove to be challenging for companies from this part of the world. In fact, in one of our earlier blog, we did an analysis of the companies which are listed in America and how they are roughly doing now.

Indeed, the world seems to be changing so much. Nowadays, you see Chinese companies investing in American startups as well. It is not a one way street. However, it is probably too soon to dismiss the notion that one should not look for ways to adopt an idea from the western world, and modify it for this region.

Uber in Indonesia? Meet Go-Jek. Raised US$550M in 2 rounds since 2010

We ask readers not to swing from one mode of thinking to another too quickly. Our take is that there are things to learn everywhere we go. Of course, different region has different culture and economies. Just don't forget to look around. Here, we list out a few that we read about in a recent article from Business Weekly in Taiwan (issue 1508, 2016 October 10th edition). (Ref: http://bookshop.businessweekly.com.tw/product_mag.aspx?ProdNo=PROD000005369)

Most of these companies have joined the Unicorn club (more than $1B market cap) even though most of them have only been in business for a few years. And, to our knowledge, a number of them are started by relative young people who are fresh out of school (or graduate school). Each has been successful in identifying the needs locally and change the models of their counterparts in the United States.

And, unlike what some people have said, they don't always start in a market which is huge. Some have started in Singapore and have comfortably expanded into the rest of South East Asia.


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