Week in Review: Seoul’s startup hub ambitions leverage on SEA growth

IT has been another good week for the Southeast Asian (SEA) ecosystem with three startups raising funds at the Series B round.

We wrote about leading Southeast Asian C2B used car startup, Carsome and the US$6 million it raised, though it considers its round as a pre-Series B. And, we carried the press releases of Wavecell, a Singapore-based cloud communications platform that raised US$8.15 million and of Singapore-based personal finance portal, MoneySmart.sg, that raised S$10 million.  

All three companies are focused on SEA and, in the case of Wavecell, the wider Asia-Pacific market as well. Not surprisingly all three startups count Japanese venture funds as among their investors. Japanese funds have a long history of interest in Southeast Asian startups, going back to the time of the first dotcom boom in the late 1990s.

Contrast this with the minimal South Korean interest in the region. That’s why our K-Startup Grand Challenge story caught my interest as the South Korean government, in promoting itself as a leading startup hub, is also keen to position itself as the launchpad for startups globally that are keen to target the SEA and East Asia markets.

Its K-Startup Grand Challenge aims to bring together 50 startups from across the globe to Seoul as part of an intensive acceleration programme. The South Korean government has partnered with Shift., an accelerator and investor. A Shift. executive tells DNA “the world’s next generation of unicorns are most likely to be winners of the Asian market. We see no reason for startups from other regions not to take part in this opportunity.”

Expect competition to heat up even more for every vertical in SEA with this move by South Korea to attract startups to this region, but via a South Korean base.

Meanwhile, the base of female leadership in tech still leaves much to be desired and this issue made for an interesting panel session at the recent Wild Digital conference where I was surprised to read that setting quotas may actually have a positive impact in addressing the imbalance. The issue of women in tech always leaves me wondering if we are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Reason? There is such a strong hunger for good talent in the startup and tech ecosystem that I just fail to see how any company, any founder can even afford the thought or pause to think for a split second about hiring or promoting someone just because they are female. Nobody can succeed if they entertain such thoughts. But do have a read and share your own thoughts. And if you know of any promising and hungry writers who want to cover the tech ecosystem, send them my way!

Here’s wishing you have had a restful weekend and do have a productive week ahead. And for our Malaysian based readers who are enjoying an extended weekend as Monday is a public holiday, enjoy the long weekend.

Editor’s Picks:

Korea’s K-Startup Grand Challenge seeks 50 global startups

Updates galore from Apple at WWDC 2017

Omni-channel business success for Naiise

Carsome raised US$6 mil, funding round led by Gobi Partners

Women in tech – a solid business agenda

Huawei goes for life in the Plus lane with it P10

Helping the unbanked

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