DSA Summit: Startups in tiger cub economies need to look at market expansion in near term

Panelists at Asia PE-VC Summit 2017.

Businesses in less developed countries in Southeast Asia need to consider a near term market expansion of looking abroad than having a longer term imaginary trajectory, according to venture capitalists at DEALSTREETASIA’s PE/VC Summit 2017 held in Singapore on September 21-22, 2017.

Speaking at the panel, “Decoding Tiger Cub Economies of Southeast Asia,” Thailand’s Digital Ventures managing director Paul Ark said, businesses are thinking about a 10 years-plus horizon of being a unicorn but not a considerably shorter vision.

“Even a company in Thailand with pretty good revenue has never thought about a second market,” added Ark.

Countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia may have more mature startup already scaling themselves by expanding to foreign countries, but enterprises in  the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar should have a shorter term vision of market expansion.

“Especially in a young ecosystem, there is desire to be a sexy part of the startup land, becoming a unicorn and raising,” said Minette B Navarrete, vice chairman and president of Kickstart Ventures.

Looking at the Philippines, the country has seen growth of over 6 per cent in the last seven years and had a number of changes  including the ease of doing business.

However, Kin-Wai Lau, CEO & Director of Fatfish Internet Group, a Singapore headquartered venture and accelerator focussed on Southeast Asia and Australia, said, the Philippines was not yet a country of interest for investors from Singapore.

For Malaysia, that recorded 256 deals (M&A, PE/VC and IPOs) worth $13.6 billion in H1 2017, there is a sizable entrepreneurial base that already exists and the country is also on the radar of others who seek to expand geographical footprint.

 “When foreign companies look to expand in southeast Asia,  Malaysia will be one of considerations,” said Dzuleira Abu Bakar, CEO of Cradle Seed Ventures.

Malaysian companies look at Indonesia and the Philippines in their expansion plans while they look at the partnership model for the same.

Vietnam and the Philippines are among the world’s fastest expanding economies, Thailand is spurring tech ecosystem development while  Myanmar is seeing more support for early stage tech and non-tech startups, the panelists observed.

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