Virtual Think Tank is a digital series focusing on the emerging markets, covering their startups, the power of the middle classes on their economies and the macro environment.
Startups in emerging markets are designed by and aimed at a young population
Investors are making significant outlays in startups in emerging economies
Rocket Internet has a large presence in frontier markets such as Myanmar
Emerging economies are more likely to develop ideas that overcome specific problems
If just one thing could define emerging economies it’s a young population – and no other place reflects this more directly than in the world of tech startups.
“If you look at Vietnam or Cambodia or Myanmar, they don’t suffer from the up-ended triangle that we all suffer from in the West of too many old people and too few young people,” said Napoleon Biggs, a Hong Kong-based digital media specialist.
Venture capitalists and startup funds are now circling South East Asia looking for ideas to invest in.
He said groups like Rocket Internet from Germany were very good at identifying “clones,” or emerging market copies of internet ideas that have originated elsewhere.
“They raise significant amounts of money and they’re not embarrassed about cloning because they say it’s all about execution, which it is.”
Frontier markets are where these investors are seeing the greatest returns.
“They’ve gone into places like Myanmar with a vengeance,” Biggs said. “They are bringing western business savvy and they find a local partner to make it happen.”
One recurring feature of emerging market startups is that they are often aimed at solving specific problems in a country.
“In the West, the internet is often slagged off as a place where people waste their time,” said Biggs. “In emerging economies, it’s more likely to be specifically engineered to overcome an existing problem.”
Click through the gallery above to see some of Asia’s most innovative companies chosen by Napoleon Biggs, angel investor Simon Squibb, analyst Xiafeng Wang of Forrester and Ping Wong of the Hong Kong Internet Society.