Takeaways from RISE
As Samsung NEXT explores what opportunities might be of interest in the Asia-Pacific region, we attended the RISE conference in Hong Kong to learn more about what’s happening there. In the middle of a mini-typhoon, we engaged with startups, VCs, accelerators, and corporates from across APAC.
Below are just a few takeaways from the conference:
International and Chinese VCs are looking at APAC as new frontiers for growth
As GDP/capita converges across the world and a paradigm shift occurs in consumer behavior in APAC, VCs see the financial and strategic gain in partnering early with founders solving regionally relevant pain points (that US startups cannot) and are leveraging small dedicated teams in key markets (like China, India, and Indonesia), while covering the rest with a fly-in, fly-out approach.
APAC’s massive population and tech dynamics create growth avenues for regionally relevant industries
The region generates huge amounts of data available from billions of people, and intense market competition is putting gas on the innovation fire by creating new ways for providing unique consumer value. Key industries include: AI, Blockchain (especially in China), New Retail, and Genomics.
Tech companies are successfully building all-in-one solutions
WeChat is no longer the only example of a startup that has created a one-stop shop of consumer solutions. Startups are building solutions that have multiple pieces stitched together to make comprehensive value propositions (e.g. Pinduoduo, Grab, Xiaohongshu, Meituan).
Social and payments are becoming the new Operating Systems
In the past, Android was the platform developers built off of. With robust social (Wechat and Facebook) and payment options (Alipay), new platforms for app builders have been created. The omni-channel/Online2Offline solutions available on products like WeChat enable services ranging from games, e-stores, and transit tools to marriage (and divorce) licences.
The “brain drain” is reversing
Southeast Asian “Turtles” are returning back home in greater numbers from China and Silicon Valley. Foreigners are starting companies across the region, and talent gaps are being filled.
International VCs must understand local operational and cultural differences
Unlike the US, success in Southeast Asia is not about product purity. Innovation involves playing politics, dealing with unique logistical hassles, and solving diverse pain points. These differences are a big reason why western solutions struggle to scale in Asia. A resounding theme during our conversations was, “Chinese/APAC startups can enter the Western world, not true the other way around.”
Companies must make bets that focus on massive ‘total addressable problems’
While more startups are aiming to use AI/blockchain in their solutions, their tech is often not as mature as in Silicon Valley, Toronto, etc. However, the size of the problems being addressed through the application of tech is far greater than what we see in other markets.