An intro to Southeast Asia for VCs from VCs

Here’s a great article that helps explain why so many US- and Europe-based VCs are said to be keen on getting into Southeast Asia. It comes via Forbes in a guest post from Fenox Venture Capital’s Anis Uzzaman and Tom Maxim.

Go read the post now – if you didn’t yet – but basically it points out that China and India are seen as huge opportunities for VCs (thanks in no small part to billion-plus populations) but actually Southeast Asia (and Japan) also represent a real opportunity to invest in a fast-growing ecosystem.

We like to call Southeast Asia, “New Asia.” These countries have large populations, even larger economies, and are creating dynamic communities of entrepreneurs. Founders in this region, we’ve seen, are increasingly willing to take on risk and innovate.

Indonesia (a huge market with 250 million people) and Singapore (a financial hub) are focused on as two of the prime countries of interest:

Singapore, due to its strategic location, top-notch infrastructure and political stability, is the gateway to Southeast Asia. It’s a major financial hub, regarded by the World Bank as the friendliest place in the world to do business. Just as U.S. entrepreneurs prefer to incorporate their companies in Delaware, founders in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and even India often opt to register their companies in Singapore. The Singapore government has been providing startups with substantial support, including office space, training, mentoring, and incubation programs, along with tax and funding incentives.

Indonesia, meanwhile, is on track to place among world’s 10 largest economies by 2050 according to McKinsey. With a population of 240 million, it’s the fourth most populous country in the world. The country’s middle class will grow from 45 million to 135 million by 2030. It’s poised to become the world’s third largest mobile market after India and China.

Southeast Asia as a whole has been increasing regional integration while improving its regulatory and business environment. New entrepreneurship communities have emerged in cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Software developers cost a fraction of those in developed markets.

The truth is that Singapore and Indonesia stand out but there is more to the region. Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are among the upcoming markets with fast-growing Internet populations and tech savvy consumers.

At the recent 500 Startups Geeks On A Plane event in Southeast Asia, it was refreshing to see just how many of the ‘foreigners’ were actually investors or entrepreneurs already involved in the region. That illustrates that Southeast Asia is increasingly becoming a place where those with money to spend, seeking to invest or in search of a challenge want to be due to the fantastic opportunities that can be had here.

It doesn’t have the sheer market size of China or India, but – as the Forbes piece explains – the sheer growth and possibilities are already attracting many.


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