I have been asked many times about smaller startup ecosystems in Southeast Asia what they should do to generate large technology startups and thus attract more foreign direct investment in their countries. After yet another roundtable with a government entourage and local and regional ecosystem leaders, let me share a few thoughts.
Start by using historical data and research to give you a place to start. We have over 10 years of startup and funding data to study in Southeast Asia of which I will not cover in depth, but for those who are keen to chat about using data driven strategies to run your fund please contact me.
Here are some high level data for you.
In SE Asia, most of the largest valued companies are:
- Global aspiration - 8% (most are B2B)
- Indonesia only aspiration - 40%
- SEA regional aspiration (usually with Indonesia as one of the aspired market) - 30% (1 in many)
- SEA ex-ID Squids - 17% (many in 1)
- SEA ex-ID only aspiration - 3% (hardly funded nor grow fast enough - 1 in 1)
With this as a backdrop, and the fact that the founders are aware that they are more than likely a copycat (99% are).
What should you do then?
1. Gather Knowledge
- Understand your environment in your beach head market or markets you are targeting and figure out your problem statement, consumer and business drivers and timing
- Figure if you and your team are the ones that are capable to address these market(s)
- Then focus on product and growth metrics while serving these markets and try to move from the bottom left to the top right corner of the chart above
We (founders and investors) have a fundamental lack of knowledge flow between capital providers from different stages. I would recommend more open conversations between accelerators and Series B to D capital providers to really understand what they are looking for. We also need to speak to other founders they are likely to copy around the world to learn what not to do in their businesses. Lastly, we need to learn from others in both developed and developing markets and understand what drivers are needed to help startups to be successful. Everyone needs to gather knowledge.
2. Market Mapping
If you are able to go global and compete with the best in class, likely aiming to be the top 4 in the world, go for it. However, from historical data, the probability of that happening is low but not impossible.
The higher probability of where you are now or will be are the 2 bolded options above.
First, if you are not addressing Indonesia from day one, you need to start planning your regional plan from day one as there will be other copycats in the region as well with a head start because they are either already based in Indonesia, or has raised more capital and/or launched in multiple markets earlier than you.
Second, be a Squid
This is where most startups get stuck, they are there but not quite. Look to be a squid with 2 tentacles and 8 arms in your home country, and plan to extend 2 tentacles to potentially 2 countries and 8 arms into potentially 8 different business lines. This way, your total combined addressable market will be larger than you originally sought out to do.
Hope this helps.
Happy New Year!