16 Startups in Southeast Asia that are Helping Push the Digital Economy Forward

Opinion04.10.2016WIN LEELAMANTHEP | DIGITAL CONTENT WRITER
Man working on Computer

The past few years have seen a recent boom in startups and interest in entrepreneurship in the region. With the digital and information age effectively heralded in, it is no wonder that new businesses are aiming to use technology to make life easier and better or even replace old technologies. Southeast Asia and India make up the fastest growing Internet market globally and funding for startups have increased significantly. These include significant increase in investments for Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. It is also estimated that the region’s e-commerce and online media industry would rise to around $200 billion by 2025. Currently it is only valued at $30 billion.    

While a significant number of startups fail to launch or take off after funding, the region has seen quite a few successful startups that are setting the “best practices” scene for young and ambitious entrepreneurs. Here are 16 startups in Southeast Asia that are helping push the digital economy to the $200 billion by 2025:

1. FlowAccount

FlowAccount, the 2015 AIS’s The Startup winner, aims to facilitate financial tasks of freelancers and small firms. Users can choose between a free package, which accommodates in creating quotations and billing notes, invoices, receipts and purchase orders, or a premium package that has additional functions. Data is encrypted via SSL and requires authentication to convert. It also provides cloud services.

2. StockRadars

Want to trade stocks as a momentum trader but don’t have time to look at the divergences and stock signals throughout the day? StockRadars provide a perfect solution. The mobile application scans the stock market via an algorithm for volume movements, price, and other stock signals.

3. Hubba

Hubba, like the sound of its name, is a hub where entrepreneurs, new start ups, freelancers, and established startups can connect and work together. Thailand’s first and largest co-working space, the company provides a trendy office feel for all people. In addition to its main location in Bangkok, the company has also invested in smaller hubs in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Vientiane, Laos.

4. ZmyHome

Selling and buying houses can often be a pain, and both parties usually lose money to middlemen who connect buyers to sellers for a living. However, with ZmyHome, homeowners can list properties for sale or rent directly to buyers. The business is essentially a smaller version of AirBnB with the option of sales.

5. ClaimDi

The application’s primary function involves claiming insurance at scenes of accidents. The startup currently deals with 15 companies, and provides efficient services to customers all over Thailand. With its success, it plans to expand into different countries including Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan.

6. GizTix

GizTix connects shippers to transporters, allowing more efficient logistics worldwide. Their services range from transporting pick-up trucks to freight to even luggage or a small box. The business won the Start-up LaunchPad at Echelon Thailand competition in 2015.

7. GrabTaxi

GrabTaxi provides a solution to both taxi drivers and customers. Whereas it may be difficult to get a taxi in various circumstances, for example, when you live in a village out of the city, or when you are trying to get a taxi late at night, GrabTaxi provides the perfect solution. It is a mobile application that connects drivers to customers. It has raised a lot of money in its initial fundraising round, and met much success both locally and abroad. The number of drivers has increased significantly since the company was first founded, as well as its customer base and app downloads.

8. Shoppr

Shoppr is an interactive shopping mobile site and app that provides shoppers a much more well rounded and pleasurable experience. Described as “tinder-like shopping,” the site has found much success among Malaysian users. Its popularity is reflected by its success during its first round of fundraising, where the round closed due to sufficient funding in just two weeks. The company aims to be the number one shopping site of Southeast Asia.

9. YouthsToday

YouthsToday was founded in 2013 in hopes of strengthening society in Malaysia. The founder’s father died over a decade ago in an incident with gangs, which primarily comprise youths and young adults there. The startup, funded by large international companies including MayBank and Sony, aims to give youths an opportunity to learn and grow. It provides them with opportunities to lead or be a tea member for social projects as well as fosters inquisitive mindsets and entrepreneurship. Though not a business founded to make money, its revenue was over USD200K in 2015.

10. Lovesprk

This application promises a perfect “love-making” experience, or as the company puts it, “hassle-free romance.” Lovesprk connects couples in love to romantic services such as dinner reservations and other amenities to enhance one’s experience such as bouquets of flowers or a limousine service. They have gained traction since its founding, and aims to be the number one service provider of the sort nationally.

11. AgilityIO

This startup specializes in the development and growing of startups. Basing their framework on the founder’s experience in Silicon Valley and the 50 startups they have aided over the past few years, AgilityIO believes that experience is its key strength and selling point. The company is not wrong, experience does indeed help. It has grown many companies such as Nerdwalllet, Modavanti, and SparkCommerce. Its primary goal is to be engaged in aiding startups all over the ASEAN region, especially in Thailand and Indonesia. This is evident in how they set up their headquarters in Singapore rather than Malaysia itself.

12. Codapay

As we head further into the twenty first century, banks are having to adapt to survive, as their traditional tasks are being replaced by new technologies and innovations. Fintech is one of the fastest growing industry around the world, and Codapay is a perfect example. The mobile application allows payments over applications, cutting out banks, which are the middlemen, from the equation. It has raised over 3 million USD so far, and will only continue to expand and grow.

13. InfoTrie

As the company’s name suggests, this startup deals primarily with information. It aims to eliminate poor quality data in order for users to only receive optimal financial information. It has raised over USD400K since 2014, and is on a trajectory of growth. In addition to headquarters in Singapore, the startup has further established smaller offices in Paris, London, and Bangalore. This is an indicator of the size in which it intends to scale up to: this startup will not be a mere national or regional business, but rather a global one that provides services all over.

14. YOOSE

YOOSE is a service provider that aims to advertise better throughout algorithms. A major distinction between the company’s services and other providers is its constantly adapted geo-targeting systems, display and video ads, bluetooth beacons, and virtual WiFi billboards. The startup has scaled to become leaders in its industry in both Europe as well as Asia-Pacific regions in under a decade. The company’s growth is a key evidence of the heralding in of the digital and information era.

15. Carousell

Carousell deals primarily in the e-commerce industry. A more upbeat and modern ebay, the company ensures accessibility and efficiency for both customers and sellers. It has raised six million dollars in a Series A round in 2014. The size and market cap of the company seems to expand without horizon. Its popularity is so high that, in under two years, it has become the number one shopping mobile application in Singapore.

16. Haven

Haven, a startup in the logistics industry, provides a solution to carries and shippers. Through the company, both parties undergo a mutualistic win-win situation: shippers have more efficiency as there is no more need for negotiations while carriers can earn “free” money as a result of customers who are buying capacities not yet bought. Though it deals specifically with occupationals and not everyday-Joes, the company has met great success. It raised three million dollars in 2015, and seems to be growing ever since.

Yet despite the immense success of tech startups and the region’s digital economy, the industry still faces a few challenges. These include the overburden of regulations that make it harder for tech startups and entrepreneurs to tap into the digital economy along with a weak region-wide infrastructure that is needed for logistics and digital payments. This is evident when we consider that out of 7,000 startups in the region, 80% of these are based in Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam. More support is needed from governments in the region to ensure that the knowledge and skills of startup hopefuls and professions that are crucial to startups (like engineers) are enhanced; tackling the region’s current high internet fraud; strengthening the region’s internet infrastructure to support such startups; and improving the region’s logistics infrastructure to ensure that delivery of goods is timely and possible.