From the other side of the world, we have Silicon Valleys top dogs housing themselves in hubs from Tokyo to Singapore. Facebook, Google, Uber, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Apple and more all have regional HQ’s in major cities in Asia. Many of them make hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars every year in the region . In the digital advertising space, this is especially felt by previously dominant or rising players in Asia. The arrival of the Valley’s tech giants (namely Facebook and Google) sucked up their business while unlocking new areas of value and commerce.
In many ways, the Chinese companies are late to the Southeast Asia party. Sure, Tencent has been peppering money into the ecosystem here and there, but China, arguably just a technological decade ahead of its southern neighbors (give or take a few years) has been focusing on its own domestic opportunities. As saturation points hit a plateau, they have to look for growth drivers horizontally inside of China or new markets abroad. Meanwhile, many American companies have been operating in Southeast Asia for a decade or more
Today, Southeast Asia is primed. Its young population and growing economies are desirable. It’s not as politically dubious as the Middle East, it’s not too underdeveloped like Africa, not overdeveloped like Europe, and not thousands of miles away like Latin America. It’s the natural extension for Chinese companies and houses a Chinese elite to boot.
It is hard for American companies to devote serious resources to a region that is still in its infancy and unproven, unlike the cash cows in the West. Is it any wonder that Grab has raised a massive $2.5 billion round as a one-two punch to knock Uber out of a region it could easily give up on, much like it did in China, where it was heavily outmatched? The other FANGAM companies could have been likewise outmatched if Southeast Asia had been prepared to counter them earlier.
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