Special Interview: Startup in Asia’s view from Gwendolyn Regina Tan

by | March 20, 2013
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Thumbsup has the great?opportunity?to interview the woman who is the pilot for the tech startup in Singapore. And she involves the startup ecosystem more than 7 years. We asked about what she thinks about the startup trend in Asia. Yes, we interview Gwendolyn Regina Tan – Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief SGE.io

thumbsup: Please let us know the source of establishing SGE.io and what is your passion in creating such web.

Gwen: If you were a internet startup back in 2005 in Singapore, the best chance for you to featured in traditional media was if you had a massive exit in the 2-3 digit millions or you had a real human interest angle to it like having recovered from a gambling addiction or lost a limb and have now built a profitable company.
It was difficult as a startup when you most want publicity to get it. So my co-founders and I came together to start SGE, a tech blog focusing on covering startups (back then we were just focused on Singapore). For a healthy startup ecosystem, and to best amplify the good work that startups are doing, one needs media to be a huge pillar. So we started SGE as a hobby to try to fill that gap.

Today, SGE is now a full-fledged media and research firm with the same goal as when we first started: to give a voice to entrepreneurs. But we’ve also gone further to connect entrepreneurs, investors and the world at large not just through news and information on Asia-based startups, but also through in-depth research and analysis on request.

We realized that what was holding many angel investors and VCs back in investing in startups across Southeast Asia and Asia was their lack of resources and networks on the ground. So we hope to help them fill in their knowledge gap so that the routing of monies here in the region gets cycled through more, and multiplied so that the entire startup ecosystem benefits.

thumbsup: What kind of contents is in this web?

Gwen: With both our media (http://SGE.io) and research (SGE Insights) arms, we focus on news and analysis on trends and opportunities in the internet technology space across Asia.

thumbsup: Having involved with Startup for many years, your impression on the Startup in which country in SEA is most interested, ready with Ecosystem and attractive for investment?

Gwen: It has been amazing to see the startup scene across Southeast Asia grow so much over the last several years. When I first started SGE in Singapore (more than 7 years ago), there was nothing much going on, not to mention the rest of Southeast Asia. Now, there are so many conferences and events, with both local and foreign entrepreneurs and investors both based in Southeast Asia and visiting often. We also get inundated with so many more startup pitches and consultancy requests these days.

On which of the countries in Southeast Asia has the most developed ecosystems for startups, I would have to say Singapore. The city-state as many things going for it: funding, talent, media and startup-friendly regulations. Investors come here because of the attractive tax breaks and leverage they get; entrepreneurs from around Southeast Asia come here because of Singapore’s more global appeal. It is quite often the first touch point for many Northern American and European investors looking to survey the scene and to meet talented founders and developers.

thumbsup: In your opinion, how to make Startup Ecosystem in the region of SEA being strong?

Gwen: On a macro level, one key thing we need is more liquidity in the market – I’m hoping that more acquisitions happen here in this region so that you create a new pool of angel investors who can then continue feeding the cycle.

thumbsup: In your point of view, how about the Thai Startup at this moment?

Gwen: I’m extremely bullish on the Thai startup scene and its quality of talented developers and entrepreneurs. Again, this is a common phenomenon we are seeing across the region, but we are seeing a lot more Thai entrepreneurs like ShopSpot, Ookbee and Builk going outside Thailand. Within the greater sense of entrepreneurship awakening happening across Southeast Asia, Thailand is one place to watch as well.

thumbsup: The working team of SGE.io should have been interviewing many Startups worldwide, would you kindly raise 2 to 3 samples that you rather admired and why?

Gwen: One of the greatest things of SGE.io indeed, is that it affords us the opportunity to meet and learn more about innovative startups and the super smart and inspiring entrepreneurs behind them.

On what I admire – I like transformational ideas and companies with the potential for global impact. Looking at the world at large, I like companies like SpaceX, for working on commercializing spaceflight for I believe humanity’s very longterm future lies it not looking just at our home planet; and Amazon for having changed on a massive scale the way we consume traditional books.

Looking closer to home in Southeast Asia, companies like Tokobagus for having made such an impact on e-commerce in Indonesia and DEAL.com.sg for having grown past the daily deal fad and expanded into other verticals and business models (disclosure: one of the founders of DEAL was an entrepreneur whom my fund invested in, and the startup was sold).

thumbsup: Apart from SGE.io, do you have some other business like VC or Angels, or not?

Gwen: One year after starting SGE, the Singapore government came to us and told us about the leveraged investments / grants for startups in the interactive digital media space and asked us to apply to be a fund. So we did – and I went on to run a seed fund focusing on internet technology investments in Singapore for four years. We have 35 portfolio companies, out of which, we’ve seen 3 exits and still closely watching the progress of others. It was a great journey working and learning from my fellow partners as well as the entrepreneurs we funded.

thumbsup: At the end, what would you like to mention to Thai Startups who are reading this article?

Gwen: You’re an ambassador for Thai and Asian founders worldwide. Be a good and inspiring one!

"thumbsup" (อ่าน ธั๊ม’ส-อัพ) คือชุมชนของ "นักเรียนการตลาดตลอดชีวิต" เรามีข่าวสาร, บทความ, บทสัมภาษณ์ ตลอดจน event ที่นักการตลาดหลายคนชื่นชอบ เช่น Spark Conference, Digital Matters

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