Business

Why Southeast Asia matters to US startups

This sponsored post is produced by IDA Singapore.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia: IndonesiaMalaysiaPhilippinesSingaporeThailandBruneiMyanmar (Burma)CambodiaLaos, and Vietnam. The Asean market has a total population exceeding 600 million people and a combined GDP of US $1.8 trillion. Its per capita income of $3000 is small but represents tremendous growth potential. American exports to Asean countries is around US $86 billion and is the 4th largest overseas market for the United States. Singapore stands out as a prime example of how US companies can gain from engaging the region.  Despite its small population of 5.1 million people, Singapore was the 13th largest trading partner of the US in 2010.  The US trade surplus with Singapore in 2010 was its fourth largest in the world.  The $16.7 billion profit that US companies reaped from their Singapore investments represented the biggest returns in the Asia Pacific region.

There are more than 550 million mobile and 139 million internet subscribers in Asean countries.  This is a largely untapped frontier for digital and mobile startups. The economies of Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and Malaysia have high mobile, internet and smartphone penetration rates.  The Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam represent emerging digital economies where penetration rates are lower but growing rapidly.  Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos are starting from low bases and offer the highest growth potential for enterprising startups.  Unlike China, which is dominated by home grown social media companies, US social media stalwarts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare etc find good adoption rates in Southeast Asia.  This represents good opportunities for US startups looking to engage a new user/customer base in Southeast Asia.  US tech startups have already been using Singapore as a hub to tackle business opportunities in the region.  This largely mirrors the tech MNCs whose regional headquarters are in Singapore.

The Southeast Asia startup ecosystem is in its infancy phase.  There is a lack of series A funding in the region of US $0.5M to US $2M.  There is also a lack of sophisticated VCs who can mentor and help startups scale their business. Similarly, there’s a dearth of talent in the management team of startups that can scale the company. However, Southeast Asian startups have been venturing overseas to network and tap on the opportunities that can help in their growth.  For the second time, a group of 9 Singapore startups will be exhibiting at SXSW.  If you will be attending SXSW, drop by the Singapore SXSW booths to meet Zopim2359 MediaMobile WallaBrandtologyGametizeGushCloudExpress In MusicProtégé Production and Business.me. Connect with them online on their Singapore@SXSW Linkedin group.

There will also be a SXSW Panel Session on Mar 10, 3.30pm at Hilton Austin Salon K to share more insights and opportunities in Southeast Asia.  Learn how Singapore companies are tapping on them and have your burning questions on expanding your business in this region answered.  To rest those tired legs and minds, chill out at our Singapore lounge co-located with Alcatel Lucent at the Hilton from March 9-13.  Singapore filmmaker and twitter’er @sioksiok’s Twittamentary, a documentary-meets- interactive experiment on Twitter, will be screened on March 9 & 13 at the Alcatel lounge. Register here to view this unique cinematic experience where the audience can interact with the cast and crew, real-time!

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