Beyond Silicon Valley - Travel Notes from my SE Asia-Australia digital tour
Over three years ago I left Singapore and relocated to San Francisco. I had been leading a large organization in Asia and had the opportunity to travel in the whole region. I thought I was keeping myself well informed of the digital ecosystem and tech environment in that part of the world. Yet I was surprised to experience so many changes. The digital ecosystem is booming in the region, and similarly to Europe deeply changing the landscape.
Distributed programming : collaboration technology drives new behaviours and business models.
I attended the traditional weekly Friday get together at ATLASSIAN . The creative vibes and energy were literally palpable. Atlassian is Australia poster child for successful Unicorn. The company values decorate the large sliding doors of the Sydney office open space. I am sure that you will enjoy the 3rd commandment, very Aussie style.
Thanks to collaboration tools (check http://moveableonline.com/blog/2016/07/08/best-collaboration-tools-for-developers-and-designers/) in coding and programming new business hubs emerge.
More than ever developers wherever they are have a multiplicity of tools to share, update theirs codes dynamically and speed up the development cycle. Indonesia and Vietnam who benefit from a young educated population surf on this wave. With its 2.75 M developers and coders India still leads the pack but watch rising stars such as KEMANA providing development of e-commerce platforms. A simple search in Google shows an impressive list of development companies in Vietnam with 17% of its population aged between 15 and 24. IDC study highlights that APAC is leading the coding world with 37% of SW developers living and working in the region.
Talent war still prevails especially for SW architect, senior experienced developers who can translate business requirements into technical requirements and orchestrate backend and front-end teams. Start-ups who have a strong CTOs on their team benefit from a competitive advantage upfront. These profiles are in high demand in the region like anywhere else and start-ups struggle to compete with major corporations.
In this dynamic Asian ecosystem Singapore holds a specific status in terms of volumes with 5.200 Tech startups, 1.7$ billion VC money. Thanks to its corruption-free economy and its rigorous governance Singapore also hosts startups from South-East Asia to scale beyond the region. Large VCs and international investors tend to put more trust in start-ups with a Singaporean headquarters or business address. Block79 in a district of converted warehouses illustrate this dynamic environment
Fight new complacency
Competition emerging in new countries should alert established business models in what most of us still think is the new economy. India keeps the upper hand on the coding supremacy but needs to innovate and raise its quality to match the future coding powers.
Equally the BPOs companies in the Philippine have to explore bots and AI to upgrade their services. Call centre agents who currently do first level triage and basic interaction will be replaced by these technologies in the coming years suppressing even the requirements to offshore more basic customer interaction. A few BPOs companies leverage regional start-ups to validate the Virtual Assistants business models. Lean and low margin operations limit necessary R&D efforts and co-development opportunities. The rising market of freelancers and independent consultants create a new market for VA services. Affordable VAs can increase productivity of these new categories of professionals.
Two contrasting islands
I made these two trips consecutively, one week in Sydney and the next in Tokyo attending the Global Women Summit. I was privileged in both countries to meet keep players of the digital ecosystem. I could not resist comparing these two contrasting countries. Japan and Australia could not be more different in all aspects their size, geography, population, language and culture. Both countries have compelling reasons to grow their digital economy. With a projected growth of 3,5% Australia enjoys more positive economic indicators but is under pressure to provide alternative growth sectors to mining and exporting raw materials. Japan is confronted with a dual challenge : a demographic predicament with an aging population not being replaced and slow growth (projected 0.8% as per OECD report).
One striking aspect of the Australian digital ecosystem is the willingness of the states especially New South Wales and Victoria to lead by example and digitally transform their own administration, policies and services. Shae Howard, Director of NSW Finance, Services & Innovation walked me through the NSW digital energy https://www.digital.nsw.gov.au/ focusing on three priorities
In order to execute the strategy the government of NSW hires various profiles from the private sector especially from the tech industry.
Gender diversity of the talk of the town - any reason to hope ?
The under representation of women in the Tech start-ups ranks top of the priority list in almost of countries. Prime Minister of Japan has even made womenomics a priority component of his Abenomics starting to address children care, pay gap. However changing mindsets and cultural heritage will probably take longer. Many women returning to work after child birth can experience “Maternity harassment” and being shamed as bad mothers in a corporate environment where hours of presence often prevail over productivity.
Women taking control of their own destiny gives hope for a change. I met several executive women who are keen on serving as role models, impact their own environment and willing to actively participate in female networks. Female professional networking has not thrived in Japan until now. Women also build platform to train women on technology such as womanet academy founded by Keiko Maruyama. There is also a surprisingly high rate of female CEO start-ups, higher than Israel or France (13%)
Japanese consumers highly connected with smartphones and present on social networks welcome services improving all aspects of their daily life. Women who have traditionally managed the family and home know best. In the new womenomics they take Mr Abe’s slogan “let them shine” seriously.
Similarly in Indonesia, women entrepreneurs spread their wings in the e-commerce space. Women in Indonesia represent the majority of Micro and small business and providing they can have access to training and banking setting up virtual stores on a platform or on FB is a natural next step.The emergence of e-commerce platforms such as Lazada facilitate the access to e-commerce. Traditionally women in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam have been active in the family shop. It is hence easier for them to go on-line. Women also hold purchasing power and Orami the alliance of two start-ups focusing on female e-commerce raised 15M$ in 2016.
Yet the gender unbalance persists in the digital ecosystem and figures are close to the traditional corporate world with an under representation of women in the decision making and leading roles.
The digital transformation sweeps Asia still adjusting to strong cultures. Yet new communities and behaviours emerge too. Digital nomads flock to cities like Chiang Mai where they feel welcome and find an ideal environment to grow their online business or e-commerce platform.
We definitely need to look beyond the Silicone Valley where the majority of humanity lives, economic power shifts and innovation thrives.
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