A Crash Course Into the Startup Ecosystems of Asia

Asia is getting famous for being the only market that are entirely mobile first focused  Something you can see evidence of walking around the streets of Singapore. If you think Europeans are bad with having their mobile phone of the table during dinner or texting in the middle of a conversation, Singaporeans are worse. Every person you see on the street or on the train consume some kind of media on their mobile phones.


crash course - Asia's Startup Ecosystem


As Singapore is the gateway to 600 million consumers, a relatively decent size market one can argue, it is worth familiarising yourself with the surrounding startup ecosystems and markets. This is a crash course/guide to help you to get up to speed with the very basics.



The big beast in the far East. All eyes rest on China, whilst the world outside is trying to figure out how to tap into this giant market there is no shortage of startups activities in the country itself. Some argues that the startup scene is built on clones from elsewhere, and they prove to be successful whilst the Google, Facebook and other western companies are blocked by the government. It’s difficult to break into this market, but not impossible.
China hosts startup hubs such as Shenzhen where resources for R&D, designing and manufacturing your product is widely available.


Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore, are similarly like Berlin and London, often put up against each other when competing for the title as the startup capital of Asia. Whilst Hong Kong is working hard to catch up and building up an established startup ecosystem the country is still lagging behind Singapore  It can be seen as the natural route to go via if you’re looking to enter the Chinese market however there are massive cultural and political barriers between the two. Get up to speed about Hong Kong by reading this article.



Dave McClure predicts a “feeding frenzy” where investors and startups will be falling over each other within 5 years from now. We just have to wait for the logistics, payments and infrastructure to be sorted out. Certainly a space to keep an eye on as it has been identified as the 3rd fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world.



This unique country is a huge market on it’s own with 250 million people (ranking 4th largest country in the world). Indonesia’s population is rapidly embracing new technologies and is avid social media lovers who are responsible for 15% of all tweets worldwide. The Indonesian population is tech savvy and there is plenty of opportunity here. It’s an untapped space for e-commerce and app development.

Indonesia face the challenge of creating strong clusters and ecosystems due to the fact that the country is geographically spread out (consisting of over 13,000 islands). However, Indonesia can still offer small startup hubs like Bali.  A haven for tech entrepreneurs who want to enjoy calm, nice weather and great co-working spaces where startups can in peace build the next big thing. In Bali you’re “working from paradise” and it’s a place that can save entrepreneurs from burn out. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags.



With initiative such as StartupMalaysia there is a strong drive to create and grow a sustainable ecosystem, but they’ still have a few steps to climb to the top. Government strongly support the growth of the Malaysian entrepreneurs. With the recent announcement of a US$30 million fund to be put into Series A investments they’re looking to create big success stories.

Bridge between Singapore and Malaysia



With a total of 95m mobile number subscribers in Thailand in 2013, a sum that exceeded the entire population by one-third can give an idea of the opportunities in this market. The interest in startups is recognised by corporate accelerator programmes. All three large telecom’s in Thailand is running their own. Although large organisations can identify the value of supporting entrepreneurship, there is still little engagement from government level and a lack of seed funding for startups to get off the ground.



Lastly, one cannot forget about Vietnam. There has been a lot of talk about the buzzing startup scene there. With the most talked about viral game in the last year, Flappy Bird, spinning out from Vietnam, the country is producing entrepreneurial role models.  Unfortunately it looks like just as Flappy Bird success abruptly ended, the Vietnamese startup eco system is facing challenges of its own. Vietnam has been the victim of some scandalous events lately, including shut down of successful startups internal operations and trouble with the government. Might be just a phase, might not.

This is it. Asia’s startup ecosystem at a glance. A lot more to learn and explore but it’s a start.


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