Unicorns & Blockchain:
Southeast Asian entrepreneurs hit Techweek19

Seven innovative tech entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia attended Techweek19 in Auckland to share their knowledge and experience of the tech sector in Asia, and to make connections with New Zealanders in the same field.

Susan Chen, a tech entrepreneur from Go-Jek Group in Indonesia tells us a bit about her company, and key takeaways from the trip to New Zealand.

The entrepreneurs spent a week in Auckland, attending three official Techweek events, speaking at two of their own events and being introduced to six New Zealand tech businesses.

Susan Chen, from tech company Go-Jek Group in Indonesia, says that the value in meeting leaders from the New Zealand tech sector is in learning about the various ways New Zealanders scale up their start-ups.

Chen says there are big differences between the New Zealand and Southeast Asia tech sectors.

“The problems we are trying to solve in Southeast Asia are quite different,” says Chen.

“I met someone in New Zealand who is talking about using technology to scan and find the right shoe size for people. Whereas in Asia you might be using technology to try to solve the problem of people having access to shoes.”

She says it makes her think about the problem her company – Go-Jek – is trying to solve in Southeast Asia – creating access to products and services to people who normally wouldn’t have that.

Go-Jek is a tech unicorn – a company worth more than one billion US dollars – that was founded in Indonesia in 2010 and now operates in five Southeast Asian countries: Vietnam, The Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

 “We are the super app of Southeast Asia. We are about integrating our technology to your everyday life – so every single thing that you want to do, you should be able to do it on the app.”

It is easiest described as the Uber of Southeast Asia – but that is not entirely accurate. Go-Jek runs more than 17 applications, spanning from the classic Go-Car, a door-to-door taxi service, to Go-Pay, an online payment platform, to Go-Glam, a make-up and beauty service that comes to you.

They employ more than four million workers – that’s an employee base close to the population of New Zealand.

Mario Jordan III Fetalino says, "I had the realisation [this week] that there’s a lot of lessons in New Zealand that we can bring to The Philippines, especially on the technology side and how companies in New Zealand operate.”

On the other end of the user experience scale, Mario Jordan III Fetalino from Acudeen Technologies in The Philippines runs a fintech (financial technology) start-up that helps small businesses.

He describes Acudeen technologies as: “A platform where small businesses who don’t have access to financing can sell their receivables [to investors] at a discount to get the money they need today.”

Fetalino found New Zealand to be more of a contender in the start-up tech sector than he expected.

“For the longest time, and I am speaking on behalf of Filipinos here, we didn’t really have an idea of what was going on in New Zealand. When we looked at model businesses we’d look at America, we’d look at Europe, we’d look at our Singapore neighbours,” he says.

“But this week I discovered a lot of interesting projects coming out of New Zealand like FaceMe. I also had the realisation that there’s a lot of lessons in New Zealand that we can bring to The Philippines, especially on the technology side and how companies in New Zealand operate.”

FaceMe is one of the companies that met with the entrepreneurs – a New Zealand-based artificial intelligence tech start-up that is a growing “producer of digital humans”. These are computer-generated avatars that look almost real, and the possibilities are endless for their use.

FaceMe’s Chief Operating Officer Bradley Scott has been on an Asia New Zealand Foundation Young Business Leaders’ Initiative trip to Thailand to learn about the tech sector.

So when he met this group of Southeast Asian entrepreneurs, he had a good idea of where they came from, and what they might like to hear about.

The discussions between FaceMe and the entrepreneurs focused on the issue of Know Your Customer (KYC), which is a process of verifying users that tech companies have to do.

The seven tech entrepreneurs visited the offices of FaceMe, a New Zealand tech business creating 'digital humans'

Essentially, a company like Go-Jek or Acudeen Technologies needs to know that their customers are real individual humans for their operations to be legal – and not be a conduit for illegal activity, such as fraud.

This is where FaceMe is useful, as their technology can be part of verifying peoples’ identities and make the experience of collecting personal information more personable.

FaceMe is just one of the amazing New Zealand tech companies who took time out of their week to meet with the entrepreneurs. Others were Townsquare, Sharesies, Centrality, Vend, Firefly Digital, FaceMe, Xero and KPMG New Zealand.

About the entrepreneurship programme:

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono entrepreneurship programme supports emerging New Zealand entrepreneurs to build connections and facilitate business relationships in Asia and supports entrepreneurs from Asia to build connections in New Zealand.

Adam McConnochie, Director Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the Asia New Zealand Foundation says that the programme is really valuable for Southeast Asian entrepreneurs to be part of.

“It gives Southeast Asian businesses the opportunity to explore the New Zealand market and meet some of our amazing businesses.”

“Often it leads to business relationships between New Zealand and Asian companies, and it also means that New Zealanders are able to connect to Southeast Asian peoples and learn about what the tech sector is like over there and build confidence when considering moving into the Asian market.”

As of June 2019, 102 business leaders and entrepreneurs from the ASEAN region have New Zealand and 46 business leaders and entrepreneurs from New Zealand have travelled to Southeast Asia.

The entrepreneurs who attended Tech Week 2019 were:

  • Susan Chen, Senior Vice President of Talent and Organisational Development for Go-Jek Group, Indonesia
  • Naysan Munusamy, Co-Founder of MoneyMatch, Malaysia
  • Chit Thu, Founder of CCEducare, Myanmar          
  • Phuoc Nguyen Pham, Founder and CEO of Acquire, Vietnam
  • Cassie Nguyen Hoang, Co-Founder and COO of Abivin, Vietnam
  • Mario Jordan III Fetalino, Founder and CEO of Acudeen Technologies, the Philippines
  • Cris Tran, Head of Infinity Blockchain Ventures, Southeast Asia