[THE INVESTOR] Major venture capitalists called on local startups to leverage the ever-growing potential in Southeast Asia to accelerate growth, at ASIA BEAT Seoul, a prominent regional startup conference, on Oct. 26.
“We think Korean technologies are very good and a lot of them have global potential,” Yinglan Tan, founding manager partner of Insignia Ventures Partners, told The Investor at the event. “We believe that with some guidance, they can become very big companies in the region.”
Tan, who formerly partnered with Sequoia Capital Asia, said his Singapore-based fund is looking for ambitious, strong Korean tech startups to invest in what could become the next unicorn. At Sequoia Capital -- the legendary VC that funded Apple, Google, YouTube and Instagram, among others -- his investments include two Indonesian unicorns e-commerce operators, Tokopedia and Go-Jek ride-hailing service.
He believes Asian-based VCs have a competitive advantage over established VCs from Europe or the US in the region as they can effectively tackle the needs of startups. “I think we can move faster and understand the local companies better,” he said.
This year’s participants at ASIA BEAT Seoul pose for a photo during the opening ceremony on Oct. 26.
Korean VC BonAngels Venture Partners also put emphasis on Asia -- mainly China, Indonesia, India and Thailand -- as markets with great opportunities, especially for local startups that want to venture abroad.
“Southeast Asia is the land for ventures,” Kang Seok-heun, CEO & General Partner at BonAngels, said during a session at the conference. “Local startups should find opportunities in countries like Indonesia and Thailand where the mobile industry is booming. It’s where regulation is less strict and the growth is ever-expanding.”
Kang gave out three major factors affecting its investment decisions at BonAngels, which has invested in over 120 startups over the past 11 years, both in Korea and overseas, which includes popular delivery app operator Woowa Bros. They are: population similarity, cultural empathy and geographical accessibility.
“There are a lot of similarities between Korea and Southeast Asian countries when it comes to population size, cultural and historical background. We are also in the same time zone, which makes it more convenient for conference calls and businesses. Leveraging that similarity, we can build a greater Asia cluster of the startup community to create bigger success.”
Fintech and software as a service, especially targeting small and midsized businesses, are the buzzword in Southeast Asia, according to Yoo Jung-ho, investment manager at Korea Investment Partners.
“In many of these countries, payment, banking abd finance, are still in a nascent stage with only 10 percent of the population utilizing credit and banking services,” said Yoo. “There is a great demand for firms that provides peer-to-peer lending and payment services. “So companies that target small and medium enterprises that make up the majority in Southeast Asia, will have a fighting chance.”
ASIA BEAT Seoul invited 107 global startups –- that include over 60 Korean firms -- and over 300 investors from major Asian cities, including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei and Ho Chi Minh City, to the Seoul Startup Hub in Mapo district of Seoul for the exhibition and demo sessions that run for two days through Oct. 27.
This year’s regional startup conference is organized by Korean-based accelerator Shift, co-organized by Seoul Business Agency and sponsored by Yes24 and Seoul Metropolitan Government.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)