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Why Southeast Asia may be the Best Place to Launch Your Startup

More and more investors are flocking to the Southeast Asia region from around to capitalize on the growing entrepreneurial activity and local talent.

Olivier Languepin

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The flourishing start-up culture is not longer just confined to the Valley or even to the Southeast Asia big, capital cities.

Most entrepreneurs get caught up in Silicon Valley envy and decide to place their startup headquarters there without a second thought.

The Valley certainly remains the mecca of the tech world but it has become extremely noisy and hyper competitive for talent and for most startups.

In fact, more and more investors are flocking to the Southeast Asia region from around to capitalize on the growing entrepreneurial activity and local talent.

In countries like Singapore where the personal income tax rate is one-fifth of that in Silicon Valley and usually less than five percent, it’s easy to get top-notch talent for a lot less cash compared to the Valley.

People think of Thailand as a country of beaches, backpackers, temples, elephants, and full moon parties : pictures that draw millions of tourists to the Southeast Asian nation each year.

But recently Forbes promoted Thailand as Southeast Asia’s Next Fintech Hub

members of Thailand’s fintech community see the country as a place ripe with opportunity for making its mark on the regional–and global–startup scenes as well.

TechGrind, an organization striving to create the next Silicon Valley in Southeast Asia, sees Thailand as a primary hub and launchpad for its companies.

Funding Activity is Rising

Another benefit of launching a startup in Southeast Asia is that it is easier than ever to raise funding for a startup in the region, and only continues to get easier.

In the Tech in Asia article, “Startup funding in Southeast Asia has broken the sound barrier. And that’s for starters”, Terence Lee discusses the rapid increase in overall startup funding in the region in recent years, with more and more companies raising $10 million+ rounds each year.

Big names like Sequoia Capital, DCM, and IDG Ventures have already set up shop in the region, along with all of the major Japanese players.

Recently, the Singapore government announced five more major early-stage VCs arriving in the country and new plans for government matches to their funding.

Extend your runway

These five cities have become hubs for digital  nomads and start-up companies, thanks to a combination of low cost access to talent and strong government support.

Bali

The island paradise has been nicknamed “Silicon Bali” for producing several significant start-up successes such as Labster, Mailbird and Smart Launch.

Bali’s popularity with digital nomads has led to start-ups like Roam and Wifly Nomads creating products and services catering to this growing market.

Dojo Bali coworking space in Canggu. Photo : Camilla Davidsson

Dojo Bali coworking space in Canggu. Photo : Camilla Davidsson

Penang

This heritage city has charmed its way into the hearts of start-up founders and entrepreneurs, sprouting award-winning companies such as Piktochart.

There is also strong state government support. An accelerator called @CAT for Creative, Analytics & Technology was launched to boost the scene and is housed at a historical building, no less.

Da Nang

Da Nang is quietly building its start-up scene with major investment from companies such as Viettel to turn the city into an “innovation Hub by the Sea”.

Hosted the first Startup Fair 2016 to build the city’s technological capabilities. Anew USS 1.3m incubator has also been set up last year to empower start-ups.

Bandung

One of Indonesia’s most creative cities, Bandung’s young population and friendly eco-system make it a fertile ground for incubating start-ups.

Under the leadership of the city’s mayor Ridwan Kamil, Bandung is piloting education reforms with a local app, Edu box, and constructing Teknopolis to be a mini version of Silicon Valley.

Chiang Mai

Dubbed “the capital of digital nomads” thanks to its affordability and high quality of life, it is impossible not to mention Chiang Mai, the virtual capital for digital nomads.

Southeast Asia is a top region for digital nomads, known for “affordable lodging, abundant inexpensive food, and a sense of adventure…,” according to Nomad Capitalist.

The city has steadily grown in clout worldwide with brands such as BBC and Amazon holding events at homegrown popular co-working spot PunSpace.

Oon IT Valley, an innovation centre to promote social enterprises and information technology know-how projects, is in the works.

Bangkok Correspondent for Siam News Network. Editor at Thailand Business News

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