Start-ups find Asia 'a great place to grow' in

By Krista A. M. Montealegre

July 26, 2017

Abbas Kazmi, who left his job at global asset manager BlackRock to start his own venture firm Collegiate Capital, said during the Forbes’ Under 30 Summit Asia at Solaire Resort & Casino in Parañaque City that the region has become a hub for start-ups to test new concepts, thanks to a large population and favorable demographics.
“At the demographic point of view, it’s a great place to grow companies,” said Mr. Kazmi, Europe’s youngest founder and managing partner for a venture capital that seeded $100 million.
Asia is expected to be one of the key engines of global expansion, with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicting a growth of 5.7% for Asia and the Pacific.
“Technology can be applied in many creative ways and this cannot be done in developed markets, cannot be done in places where people have been taking things for granted,” said Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of Philippine-based incubator Machine Ventures.
Mr. Shabibi, who hails from Iran, plans to generate a million jobs in the next three to five years by helping individuals transform their ideas into business.
One of the first companies it helped develop is HeyKuya, a text-based personal assistant system with more than 35,000 users.
While Asia may be a hub for budding entrepreneurs, operating in this part of the world has its own challenges.
“You have to get your hands dirty (in Asia) and that’s how it works here…” Mr. Shabibi said.
“It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be easy.”
For Fabian von Heimburg, founder of Chinese artificial intelligence data service provider Hotnest: “You need to do things their way, especially for a foreigner… and not do things the way you do it.”
“You have to do it the local way. That’s the challenge.”
Mr. Heimburg, who worked in New York before trying his luck in China, was reportedly one of the very few western foreigners to start a technology startup catering to the Chinese market.
Despite being fluent in Mandarin, the German entrepreneur feels “people still see me as a foreigner.”
Collegiate Capital’s Mr. Kazmi said building relationships is important to navigate cultural diversity.
“A foreigner -- that is something that I will always be there…” Hotnest’s Mr. Heimburg said.
“That is something that you can never change. You have to rely on the local people. Once you accept that, you can move on.”
For Machine Ventures’ Mr. Shabibi: “If people see that it makes their lives easier, they will be your advocate. They will take the initiative to make sure that you survive and make things happen.”
“And that’s the culture of openness that I really appreciate.”

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