Grow Globally: Success Factors for ASEAN | Techsauce

Grow Globally: Success Factors for ASEAN

Kicking off the Techsauce Global Summit 2023 among the first session is a riveting panel guided by moderator James Kawn, the panelists delve into the opportunities available for ASEAN entrepreneurs aiming for international growth.

On the panel were Ana Barjasic, Natalie Black, and Norbert Bak, who took turns in sharing their experience that underscores the significance of a global perspective, along with insights on European customers' views on Southeast Asian innovations as well as promising opportunities for businesses looking to expand their horizons

Succeeding with Governmental Push

To succeed in global growth, businesses must understand a delicate balance between adopting local sentiments and maintaining their core brand essence. Norbert gave an example of Shoppee Poland, which garnered immense attention with an Asian-Centric commercial jingle advertisement where it boosted its subscriptions and user base significantly 

Yet, it's not just about unique marketing strategies. Norbert emphasizes the pivotal role of government agencies in aiding overseas expansion. For startups venturing into regions like Europe, leveraging connections like the Thai embassy can be instrumental. These agencies, deeply embedded within the local ecosystem, actively champion businesses from their homeland. Drawing from his experience with the Thai embassy in Poland, Norbert notes that the most successful global companies often benefit from such institutional support.

UK and Europe as Thriving Tech Sector and Support for ASEAN Entrepreneurs yet Untapped

Despite deep ties with Southeast Asia, the UK's trillion-dollar tech sector remains underappreciated in the region. The UK actively supports ASEAN entrepreneurs through initiatives like the Global Entrepreneurs Program and events such as London Tech Week. Natalie assures ample resources await those eager to join the UK tech scene.

Separately, Norbert observes a significant shift in Thai services and culture in Europe. Recalling his 90s Thailand visit, he notes the current popularity of Thai culture in Poland, with Thai food and spas prevalent. While Thai cultural influence has grown, opportunities remain for innovative Thai concepts in Europe.

ASEAN Companies and European Sustainability Expectations

For ASEAN businesses targeting Europe, it's imperative to genuinely adopt and embed sustainable practices, as European consumers, notably Generation Z, prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Ana emphasizes that companies should sincerely integrate both internal and external sustainable measures, like addressing gender pay disparities and ensuring full product lifecycle responsibility. Crucially, businesses must avoid "greenwashing" to prevent damaging their reputation, especially when seeking trust in the European market. Genuine commitment to sustainability is the key.

How do you overcome cultural and Business differences between European and ASEAN Markets ? 

Natalie mentioned the complexities of navigating cultural and business differences between European and ASEAN markets. Drawing from her consulting background, she emphasizes the need to deeply understand a new market before making significant decisions. Building genuine relationships, researching potential business terrain, and understanding customer demands is critical. Furthermore, while adaptation is necessary, she advises companies to remain true to their original brand ethos. Interestingly, Natalie notes the rising significance of ESG considerations in today's business landscape, particularly in Europe. Companies looking to pitch or integrate must ensure they not only talk the talk but can also substantiate their claims, especially when addressing climate change and sustainability, as these concerns are now central to many European stakeholders.

..And what do European investors consider when they evaluate us entrepreneurs ?

Continuing, Natalie believes that Southeast Asian companies hold a unique position when seeking investment from European stakeholders, primarily due to the allure of diversification. The recent pandemic underscored the need for diversifying investments, supply chains, and business relationships. Southeast Asian tech companies, with their innovative solutions and fresh perspectives, offer European investors opportunities they've seldom encountered before. Moreover, the agility and speed at which these companies prototype and pilot their projects stand out, especially when compared to their European counterparts who might be constrained by regulations. Crucially, she told that in the world of venture capitalism, beyond the product or idea, it's the people that truly matter. Southeast Asian entrepreneurs, teeming with ambition and innovative ideas, represent an enticing proposition for European investors.

How can ASEAN entrepreneurs effectively raise international capital? And what unique challenges do they face ? 

Norbert, having had experience at the Warsaw Stock Exchange, shared valuable insights on how ASEAN entrepreneurs can secure international capital. Poland boasts one of the largest stock exchanges in Europe and is open to fresh ideas from all over the world. Interestingly, there are 150 gaming companies listed on this exchange, making it a global leader in that domain. However, Norbert emphasized the increasing importance investors place on corporate governance and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors. Companies failing to meet ESG standards often face investment roadblocks. For smaller businesses, Norbert suggests exploring local European programs that support foreign companies, like Poland's "Startup Booster", which offers capital and operational support for newcomers.

What about the largest Deep Tech Fund in Europe, what are the EIC financial instruments and how can entrepreneurs benefit from them ?

Wrapping up, Anna, as a Board Member of the European Innovation Council (EIC) – Europe's largest deep tech fund – sheds light on the 'investment readiness paradox' faced by companies. While investors feel startups lack preparation, startups often believe there's a dearth of willing investors. Addressing this disparity, she mentioned that the European Commission introduced the EIC, offering either grants or equity up to 15 million euros, depending on a company's technological readiness. 

The EIC encompasses three segments: the EIC Pathfinder, EIC Transition, and the EIC Accelerator for advanced businesses nearing market entry. However, to tap into these resources, a startup needs a European entity, primarily because the European Investment Bank, backing many European VCs, mandates investments in European companies. While entrepreneurs don't necessarily have to be European, understanding the European investment landscape is crucial.

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