THE mobile Internet boom across South-east Asia could give rise to tech unicorns in sectors such as social content platforms and cross-border money transfers, said venture capitalist Jenny Lee, managing partner of GGV Capital, at the Innovfest Unbound conference on Friday.
Addressing a jam-packed room overflowing with attendees, Ms Lee noted that South-east Asia has become "extremely interesting" to GGV. The venture firm, famed for having nurtured over 50 unicorns globally, launched its first South-east Asian office in Singapore this year.
"After spending the last 19 years in China and the US, I think it's time to start spending some more time here, to work with the new entrepreneurs here (and) to figure out whether this 600 million to 700 million population called South-east Asia can yield us more unicorns," she said.
In a region empowered by mobile-based Internet, services that enable transactions can be a "key growth driver", Ms Lee said. While unicorns like Grab and Gojek have gained market dominance, there are still other transaction-driven sectors with room for growth, she added.
"We talk about transactions in two ways. One is virtual, where everything is online, live-streaming, gaming, live-casting - this in Asia, is happening at the same pace and duration as the rest of the world. There will be some competitors coming in from China… but I think this is still very much a local business," she said.
The other aspect of transactions is money transfer, she added. "In this region, it's very unique. We have different countries, different currencies, different government regulations and different policies, even if it's around P2P (peer-to-peer)," she said, noting that lessons from the US and China markets cannot be directly applied here.
"The actual execution and actual navigation of the local situation will be different. Which means these are huge sectors, they can give rise to new unicorns…If you guys are looking to start your next startup, think along those lines," she told the audience with a laugh.
Beyond her thoughts on the South-east Asian landscape, Ms Lee also offered an unorthodox take on what she wished more entrepreneurs would share with her - their organisational charts.
"Be honest about what your org chart is, where you are today, how that's going to evolve and where is the hiring that needs to happen... Most entrepreneurs only come to our board and show us financials. I don't want to see your financials, I want to see your org chart," she said.
"This is where you can harness your resources around you to help you, how sometimes the people that you may want may not be in your immediate circle. And therefore, having to leverage other people to help you do that becomes reported. When you have the right people, you can decide what direction you want to go," she added.