These success stories are no surprise given the increasing amount of money being funneled into the space across Asia from powerful VCs and government bodies alike. Last year, the funding for startups throughout Asia increased by more than double, while in the U.S., funding only rose a mere 17 percent.
As an entrepreneur in the U.S., the increasing investment in new ideas and technology combined with fast-growing markets and massive customer bases seems massively appealing. In fact, some are already beginning to reap the rewards. Take, for example, ex-Googler Renee Wang who founded podcast app Castbox in China. She has grown the company into a global business, recently closing a $13.5 million Series B funding round.
While there's certainly a lot of appeal to doing so, launching a business in the massive Asian market is an extremely complex process for any business, big or small. Here at Techstars, we launched our first startup accelerators in southeast Asia and India over the past twelve months and learned these three tips and tricks for those interested in doing the same:
1. Match your market to your business.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of opportunity in Asia. Three of the top five most populated countries in the world (China, India and Indonesia) are located in Asia, as are half of the top twenty fasting growing economies.
The key to setting up shop in this diverse region is finding the market that offers the best fit for your product with potential customers. The first port of call for most businesses entering Asia are the regional hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong.
Because of their central location, these cities are where most global corporations base their regional headquarters. This means they act as "gateways" to their neighboring markets, while simultaneously providing easy access to international networks and communities.
Each country has its own culture, market benefits and challenges, as well as its own strengths. For example, Shenzhen in China leads the way in high-tech manufacturing, and is a hardware haven, while Bangalore in India is known for its vast IT services industry and huge wealth of computer programming talent.
Do your research and establish the ideal location based on the business you have and the impact you want to make.
2. Find the right partners.
When visiting a new city, there's nothing better than getting connected with a local to get the low down on the best places to see and the best things to do. Similarly, when you're doing business in a new country, working with a local partner who knows the lay of the land can be a huge help.
By working with a local partner, you leverage the best of both worlds: your skills and product alongside your local partner's on-the-ground knowledge and connections.
With our first accelerator in South East Asia, we're lucky to be working with Rakuten, the global e-commerce and internet company. Their APAC HQ is in Singapore, and their expertise and support has been vital in helping us establish a presence there.
3. Hire the right people.
When launching into a new market, setting up the right leadership team is essential. You need to find the balance between hiring people who understand the local market, while also ensuring that your country leaders understand and can maintain your company culture in a new country.
Many startups will choose to relocate a team member from the U.S. who is originally from, or has ties to, the new market to help establish the company there. This can be an effective approach. Remember that, just like building your initial startup team, your first few hires can make or break you.
Overall, the benefits of entering into the fastest growing economies in the world make entering Asia a necessity for any business that truly wants to be global. If you can nail down these three areas, you're already in a prime position to succeed in taking advantage of the massive opportunity that this continent holds for business.