Bootstrapping Innovation in the Asia-Pacific Region

By: Nima Baiati | 9/21/2017

There is a tremendous amount of talent and innovation in the Asia-Pacific Region. One need only look to companies like Lazada, Grab, and Food Panda to see that the region holds the potential to be the future growth engine of the global economy. The Asia-Pacific region has contributed to two thirds of global growth over the past decade, accounting for 44% of global GDP, fuelling that growth through transformative macroeconomic policy, global integration and post-crisis reforms, as noted recently by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Countless Western companies, across every vertical, have attempted to expand into Asia to strike gold. Yet, only a few have succeeded. What sets these companies apart? What can global organizations learn from the successes and failures in the Asia-Pacific region?

I was recently invited by Harvard University to speak at the Harvard Panel on Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) in Sydney, Australia, one of the pre-eminent forums for topics relating to venture capital, digital growth, technology innovation and geo-political issues in Asia. Bringing together leaders from industry and the socio-political arena (Secretary General of ASEAN, United States Surgeon General and numerous leaders from the UN, etc.) along with countless venture capital leaders and technologists, HPAIR is a week-long deep-dive into the most pressing issues impacting the region and provides a forum for the exchange of ideas into the technological and investment climate of Asia.

Venture Capital and Technology Innovation in the Asia-Pacific Region

At HPAIR, I participated on the panel, Bootstrapping the 3rd Wave: Emerging Technologies and the Evolution of Industry, where the focus of discussion was on the opportunities for venture capital in the region along with technological innovation – specifically around IoT, ICOs, FinTech and cyber security.

Steve Case, founder of AOL, was one of the architects of the 1st Wave of the Internet at a time when only 3% of Americans were online. The 1st Wave, building the Internet, was followed by the last 15 years of the 2nd Wave: building apps and services, dominated by companies such as Google and Facebook. According to Steve Case, the 3rd Wave of Internet maturity will focus on how the Internet addresses basic human needs, with waves of innovation in healthcare, education, transportation, energy, food and financial services.

Entrepreneurs in the region are exploring many of these innovative technologies in AI, IoT, blockchain and big data, with success in the region dependent on some core insights from HPAIR:

  • Regional diversification - Asia is a continent, not a single-entity, and those companies that succeed will understand the differences that cultural norms, tradition and religion may have on business as a foundational principle. The way we do business in China is vastly different than in Japan or Korea or Thailand.
  • Understanding barriers - Start-ups in Asia-Pacific face unique barriers to success, in addition to standard business start-up challenges on securing founders, talent, and funding.
  • Product/Market Fit - I can’t stress the importance of finding this, and finding it fast, for any start-up or mature company that is moving into a market (especially while you’re burning through capital).
  • Globalization -  I’m not a huge fan of the word, mainly because it’s so overused but I will say this: there are a lot of really smart people out there, grinding and hustling day-and-night to win – especially in the emerging markets.  How hard are you grinding? Do it better, do it cheaper, or be the only one that does it.
  • Solve a real problem - Like a lot of people working in tech, I’m a big fan of the show Silicon Valley.  There is a great scene in one of the episodes where one of the characters buys a “smart” refrigerator and Gilfoyle remarks about solving a problem that doesn’t exist. There are a lot of brilliant ideas and brilliant people – but does your idea solve a problem that is going to get people to part with their money?

So, what does all of this have to do with Absolute and cyber security?  At Absolute, we’re the pioneers (and the only ones) that do true firmware-level visibility and connectivity. I’m proud to say that no other company provides embedded-at-the-factory, firmware-level visibility and security. Period. Full Stop.

We’ve spent close to two-decades perfecting this technology and have some of the best engineers on the planet both in North America and in Vietnam working on our firmware-level and our OS-layer technology. As a customer-centric, technology-driven company, we’re also acutely aware that the world and market changes rapidly; in order to ensure we’re enabling our customers to succeed, we are continually driving innovation.

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