Where to startup in Asia? Still now the Asian startup scene remains somewhat of a mystery. Singapore and China have become key centers but Southeast Asia countries are roaring
Think of startups you’ll think of Silicon Valley. US is still the global hub of tech giants and unicorn startups alike, but something is changing. Asia is now home to many of the world’s most innovative and valuable technology startups.
Today Asian cities are competing each other to create the most profitable environment for their hi-tech pupils. These cities have strong economies, business-friendly policies and well-developed infrastructure, plus offer a range of tax incentives, subsidies and related programmes to support entrepreneurs. Where to startup in Asia? Here are the 5 most exciting Asian cities for hi-tech and startups.
The capital of China is also home to the country’s most prominent technology hub. With Shenzhen and Hangzhou, Beijing is one of the three PRC’ Silicon Valleys. Thus, the northern district of Beijing, Haidian, is home to the Silicon Valley of the north. Zhongguancun hub – placed in Haidian district – was founded 30 years ago with this mission: “learn from Silicon Valley and replicate Silicon Valley”. Now is PRC hi-tech forerunner.
Flanked by tall skyscrapers inhabited by Stone Group, Lenovo, and Baidu, this area is attracting still more hi-tech companies including Intel, Oracle, and Sony. Microsoft built a US$280 million research lab with over 5,000 employees in Beijing, and even Google has inaugurated a research lab with the support of the city government. Perhaps most exciting of all for foreigners looking to get a piece of China’s tech innovation is the inception of the ten-year working visa. Beijing is preparing to welcome those skilled professionals fleeing other countries who are highly qualified in their fields.
2. Ho Chi Minh City
Finally we have also seen some interesting indicators in Vietnam. As one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, with a potential annual GDP growth rate of 5.1%, Vietnam carries the weight of expectations. A hub of manufacturing and dropshipping operations, Ho Chi Minh has a vast supply of young talented developers and designers. But, we all know that skills alone do not make a great startup scene.
What’s the startup culture like? Vietnam’s startup ecosystem has made progress in giant leaps and bounds, with startups raising $205 million in 2016, a 46 percent increase from 2015. The star of the pack has been the fintech sector, which raised close to $129 million in 2016. On average there about 100,000 university graduates per year in engineering alone, but the startup activity is relatively smaller compared to other SE Asian countries, Vietnam certainly has some great potential.
Thailand’s economy is undergoing a major shift. In 2012, Thailand had three funded startups. By 2016, this number had grown 25 times and has grown year by year. Under the Thailand 4.0 program introduced in 2016, the country is becoming more open to hi-tech. Thus, in 2018 the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) unveiled the country’s aim to be a global destination for startups. Thailand has revamped its startup ecosystem with a concentrated effort to ensure ease of doing business.
With about $175 million raised by startups this year, Thailand is on its way to becoming a new startup ecosystem hub. Tourism gets techier. Tapping into Thailand’s booming tourism sector, you have startups such as Agoda.com, which acts as a hotel booking engine. Founded in 2005, the site was acquired by Priceline Group in 2011.
Another startup changing Thai tourism norms is Tuk Tuk Hop or Local Alike. As Tech in Asia quoted, agriculture remains a major contributor of Thailand’s GDP, and Thailand 4.0 isn’t quite ready to give up an entire industry. Instead, the roadmap plans to make farming “smart” with the help of automation and drones through app such as Bug Away Thailand.
Singapore is a relatively well-established city where there has been a strong growth of startup activity over the past few years. The city state’s ambition to become an innovation hub for Southeast Asia has been helped by its success as a destination for large global enterprises to establish their regional headquarters. With notable startups such as Unified Inbox and GoldMint, Singapore has all the right elements to become a bigger player in the world in terms of entrepreneurial activity and innovation. And the government is supporting this hi-tech changing.
What’s more, it simplified regulation for VC firms to facilitate access to capital for up and coming startups. Singapore recently announced a new scheme, known as EntryPass, that gives foreign entrepreneurs a two-year window to start a new business in the city. Thus, announced plans to pour US$2.86 million in funding companies involved in various advanced technology projects, such as those in artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
According to experts, Fukuoka is ready to overthrow Tokyo as main Japanese hi-tech hub. Fukuoka poised to be the country’s Silicon Valley. Down south on the island of Kyushu, Fukuoka is cultivating a budding startup scene, cranking out everything from social messaging apps to task-management tools. In a country where most areas have an aging and shrinking population, Fukuoka is experiencing the opposite and today Fukuoka is the fastest-growing major city in Japan outside of the capital, which has been steadily draining talent and workers from the rest of the country for decades.
This ancient port is drawing entrepreneurs from Japan and abroad and under the leadership of Mayor Soichiro Takashima, Fukuoka has begun a transformation that has swept up many in startup mania. He was just 36 when he assumed the role and he bring his young perspective in business too. “We can’t just go with the flow, we want to carve out a new era.” is used to say Mr. Takashima.
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