SE Asia to enter unicorn zone in the next 10 years, says expert

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 ― With the right infrastructure, policies and government support, Southeast Asia (SEA) is set to enter the unicorn zone in the next 10 years, with startup companies leveraging their businesses on e-commerce and financial technology (fintech), Wild Digital SEA 2019 speakers said.

Ernst & Young Advisory Services Sdn Bhd’s Fintech Advisory senior manager, Gopal Kiran said a lot of unicorn startups are popping up, especially from the United States (US), but things are a little slow in SEA.

“However, I believe the mood is picking up. We have the right tools and assets so I believe we are getting there,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the two-day conference which began yesterday.

Gopal noted that there is a need for support in terms of policies, capital and investments to ensure that businesses would be able to expand in the region.

A unicorn refers to any tech startup company that reaches US$1 billion (RM4.13 billion) dollar market value, as determined by private or public investment.

Unicorn startups in the region include GoJek and Tokopedia from Indonesia, Lazada from Malaysia, Grab from Singapore, VNG Corporation from Vietnam and Revolution Precrafted from the Philippines.

Aside from the unicorns, there are also the “zebra” startups, where companies collaborate, add more partners and create an ecosystem where they collectively achieve the unicorn valuation level (US$1 billion).

The growth of zebra startups should be encouraged, said Roger James Hamilton, New York Times best selling author, futurist and social entrepreneur.

“Zebra companies are characterised by doing real business instead of disrupting the current market. They become profitable and help to solve social problems,” he said during a 15-minute presentation.

Meanwhile, Asia Partners co-founder and managing partner, Nick Nash said to-date, countries such as the US, Japan and South Korea have reached the unicorn zone, while China, SEA and India are waiting in line to join them.

Themed “Advancing SEA’s billion-dollar ideas”, the 5th Wild Digital SEA conference was attended by more than 1,000 top internet players, entrepreneurs, founders, chief executives and investors aiming to gain insights into the future of technology and digital creativity. ― Bernama

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