A few weeks ago, I offered you to share ideas about some of the agencies and the products of the digital industry in South-East Asia, namely Singapore and Malaysia. As a social media critter looking for a new country and new life, I had met with a few players. Here I go again for another month of travels in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and a new series of thoughts to share.
A new frontier, and a “new” new frontier too
If Singapore is the place I should to settle in November, it is due in part for its position as a business-friendly and digital-proof hub for other countries. If Hong-Kong looks North (China, South Korea), Singapore has a better position in my opinion, and cultural/language links, with South-East Asia.Two set of countries seem to get people’s attention here.
First frontier of know countries : Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Countries where bold people have already ventured quite a lot, even if from my still French point of view, it’s already a world of adventure. This new frontier is already making some noise (and not only because of Rocket Internet !), you can easily spot for each a growing tech and digital scene. If you’d like to dig it, look for the local coworking spaces and online media talking about the tech and digital scene.
Then, a “new” new frontier with recently opening or still not stable countries, such as Myanmar, Timor Leste, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, where opportunities are not plenty, but growing, and people bold enough to leverage this context not that many. An American VC met here already put a few K$ in a start-up in East-Timor. Another advantage to be the first in these countries : the entrance ticket to the local scene and to the influencers is still affordable, be it regarding the price of the journey or the possibility to get in touch with those local leaders willing to connect regionally and globally.
Above all, the importance of your network (and the time you allow for it)
In Western countries, it’s also common to rely on its network of friends, colleagues, clients and experts, but still, you have the possibility to break into the market thanks to regulation (public tenders, share of government contracts reserved for small and medium enterprises). Your reputation could also fly over the network effect : if you made a big hit in Europe, you could go to the US and convince people by showing them your track record.
In South-East Asia, this wouldn’t help a lot unless you find the people connection that will make this record recommended by the friend of the guy/gal you want to talk into buying your ideas/products. The area is business friendly, yes, but as any, has a specific layer of cultural codes to be thought of before investing your time and energy.
And this network building is indeed time-guzzling : you don’t simply connect to people, you have to feed and entertain these people you meet and feel they could, at one point, prove decisive for your business. That’s why one of the point of view on this issue could be to be highly selective on the brands or people you want to convince, because it will take as much time as for any other one. To be more precise : it could be more efficient to have high expectations right from the beginning, as this seduction stage would cost the same in an always limited time to break a deal with a start-up or a first-tier brand or company.
Generosity chain : do unto others as they did unto you !
This network effect, hopefully, can be quicker to master than in Europe, as with only one week of meeting people here, I’m already having one customer (and, uh, almost a company to have him pay me ^^), and a few solid leads too. I’m afraid this would have taken weeks or months in Europe.
The entrance fee, here, is not very high. If you have to be recommended by the good person to get a contract, everyone is pretty easy to get in touch with. Contrary to Europe, and France notably, hierarchy isn’t the status game that always make you, the DIY and entrepreneur guy, look like an alien. It’s quite common to meet in little time managing directors, VCs, and key people that will in turn be able to help you make it here.
And there’s another specificity to this generosity. People won’t stay all their lives in their position, company, or even country (again, the parallel drawn with European companies is terrible). The turnover is quite high, as the market smoothly allows one to change jobs and catch the opportunity when it’s here. This phenomenon seems to make possible a chain of generous people, who, having being helped by easy networking and open minds, are in turn giving it back to newcomers. It gives me, at least, huge confidence and pays for the energy.
Oh, and I’ve just landed on the fabulous grounds of The Hub Singapore, that’s probably the spot you could begin with (in any case, you’ll get here soon enough).
Thanks Grace, Thom as, Justin, See, Natalie, Vincent, Andrea, Alexandre, Olivier, Grace, Monalisa 🙂