For a newbie to the start up world (read me), the Tech in Asia conference in Singapore (12–13 April) proved to be an orientation to the startup ecosystem in Asia.
It was a dazzling event face to face with scores of others who live, eat and breathe the entrepreneurial life. The event had 200 exhibiting startups and 4000 attendees including VCs, government officials, industry leaders & other inquisitive minds presenting countless networking opportunities. While I can say a gazillion things about the overall experience itself, it was listening to other like-minded and not-so-like-minded individuals over the 2 days that gave me the true “Aha!” moments.
Here are 5 key takeaways that stood out for me:
1. Winter isn’t coming . Not yet.
Amidst falling growth rates, rock bottom oil prices, low industrial production indices and general noises of doom & gloom, it is largely believed that the VC purse strings will tighten as well.
Khailee Ng , Managing Partner at 500 startups, clearly does not subscribe to this view . In fact he “does not give a ***k” . VC funding in Asia doubled in the past 12 months from US$8.9 billion to US$17.2 billion. SE Asia grew at an even more impressive rate to record $478 mn in the first 3 months of the year. And this is only half the level of funding in India!
Read more about Khailee’s talk here.
This clearly means that if there is a differentiated idea solving a real problem, there is no dearth of capital.
Forget the naysayers, if your fundamentals are right, this is the best time to be part of the start up world.
2. Big corporates are sitting up and taking note!
I spent the first 7 years of my career in large MNCs, which were too self-absorbed to see startups as real threats or serious allies. This trend is swiftly and surely reversing. There is a new found respect for those taking the entrepreneurial plunge, but whats more is that they are also recognizing the startup ecosystem as critical to driving innovation in the industry.
Not only were the likes of Visa & DBS sponsoring the TIASG2016 event , but executives from these large corporations spent 2 full days mingling with startups. KPMG announced the launch of KPMG Digital Village, a collaborative ecosystem of innovators, investors, and corporates innovating together.
Startups and corporate giants should work together to benefit the society at large: Facebook Co-founder Eduardo Saverin
Read more about Eduardo’s talk here.
3. Asia is the hotbed of action
Ceaser Sengupta , who is driving the “next billion users” initiative at Google, talked about the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the next billion internet users, who would be mostly from South East Asia and India.
Given the stage & pace of infrastructure growth, government policy changes and diverse requirements of local populace, the start ups in region will have singular opportunities in solving problems and making a meaningful difference to the way internet is accessed and used.
Sitting in Singapore, I am less than 6 hours away from 60% of world’s population: Caesar Sengupta
4. Fundamentals of the VC industry are changing
There were VCs from across Asia at the event & I could see the rules of the game were not what I’d assumed. Startups are looking beyond money while choosing the VC they want to grow with. Along with mentor-ship and guidance, they are also seeking operational expertise, industry know-how and the right connects.
As capital is now becoming largely a commodity, the value lies in what you bring to the table for a founder: Eduardo Saverin
Due to increasing “ commoditization of capital”, this is fast transforming into a “buyers” market from a “sellers” market, with each fund vying with each other to bring more to the table than just the “greens”.
5. Short term working is a hot space
With 200 startups representing 16 industries at the event, HR Tech was well represented by approx 10 startups across full-time recruitment, flexible working, outsourcing and mentor-ship.
TIASG20016 provided the perfect platform where I could sound Flexing It’s progress & plans with investors, aspiring consultants, fellow-startups and industry leaders alike. It was exciting to see that their feedback reaffirmed the exciting prospect of the changing future of work.