Learning from recent trends in the Asian startup space [Echelon Japan 2013 panel]



See also the original story in Japanese.

At e27’s Echelon satellite event in Tokyo today,We had a chance to hear a panel discussion with co-founders of emerging tech news media from the Asian region. The panelists included [1]:

  • Mohan Belani, co-founder, e27, Singapore
  • Rama Mamuaya, co-founder, Daily Social, Indonesia
  • Masaru Ikeda, co-founder, SD Japan
  • Moderator: Rick Martin, editor-in-chief, SD Japan

How do your respective countries help support startups or entrepreneurs?

Rama: Our western city of Bandung is one of the hottest places right now. Jakarta is where the money is. The investment people and those who are making money around the startup scene, such as VC firms or incubators are based in Jakarta. Typically entrepreneurs might meet and talk with advertisers or VC firms every week in Japan. Jakarta is not so open to accept entrepreneurs who might make some crazy business – however Bali welcomes them. (laugh) Our government does not actually help us much. And typically Indonesian entrepreneurs launch their business without governmental support.

Masaru: Compared to other countries, Japan is very conservative. But it is fortunate that many incubators and accelerators have launched in the last few years. Some Japanese giant IT companies established subsidiaries that specializing in investing in startups. In terms of creating an environment where entrepreneurs can take risk, these new entities are a great support for them.

Mohan: The Singaporean government provides pretty good support for our local startup scene. When you launch a company in Singapore, if your business meets the criteria, you will receive the maximum amount of up to $5 million, not as an investment but as a grant.

Japanese IT businesses and investors are busy in South East Asia. How are they doing?

Mohan: I think DeNA is doing well, and Gumi has also a presence. And we’ve seen many Japanese VC firms in Singapore. Typically they set up a subsidiary in Singapore and expand to other SE Asia countries to invest in local startups. I think this is a good choice. Because for local startups, the government tells you where you should go for a job, which developers you should partner with, and necessary information for their localization efforts.

Rama: Compared to funding from Indonesian local VC firms, it would be better to get funds from Japanese VC firms. Among them, GREE Ventures is pretty active. DeNA is likely to come next. CyberAgent Ventures has already started investment, and they also brought their subsidiaries (such as MicroAd) to the Indonesian market. In Indonesia, Japanese companies typically are investing in local startups and bringing their portfolio companies over.

The latest startup trends

Rama: Tiket is an impressive service, and they succeeded in raising funds and are pretty aggressive. Mobile gaming and social networking services are very hot. Some Indonesian mobile gaming startups are reaching foreign AppStores in the US, UK, and Japan. (cites TouchTen as an example)

Mohan: We’re hosting satellite events all across the region, and winning teams from those startup pitch sessions are basically teams of professional people. For example, there’s a startup providing a telemedicine service for doctors. These things remind Singaporean entrepreneurs that they shouldn’t keep developing just simple social apps, and they might start providing serious solutions for serious problems in spaces like the construction, medical, and legal industries.

  1. Answers are paraphrased and not quoted verbatim.  ↩