RISE Conference Recap — Time For Asia To Think ‘Global’

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There was a lot of hype and buzz involved when Web Summit announced that they were holding their first ever event in Asia, the RISE Conference. Web Summit is the technology conference held in Dublin, Ireland. Web Summit has grown from 400 to over 22,000 attendees since it started back in 2011 but RISE Conference started out with a bang with over 5000 attendees from over 75 countries.

Modeled after the Web Summit, the RISE Conference comprised of four primary stages, the Machine, Enterprise, Marketing and Builders stage along with a pitch competition and hundreds of startups exhibiting. For plenty, it was the largest startup conference they’ve ever attended.

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GGV Capital Managing Partner Jenny Lee answering questions about the future of innovation in Asia

Notable names that attended the event include Neil Shen (Sequoia Capital Founder), Jenny Lee (GGV Capital Managing Partner), Dave McClure (500 Startups Founder), John Collison (Stripe Cofounder), Werner Vogels (Amazon CTO), Takeshi Idezawa (Line CEO), Ray Chan (9Gag Cofounder), among others.

Stripe Cofounder John Collsion shared an important point on why his startup has managed to grow its brand so quickly from startup to unicorn. “It’s not so much that Stripe is cool. It’s that starting a startup is really cool right now (One of Stripe’s main customers are startups). We’ve seen over the past 5-10 years the amount you can do as a small startup can really explode.”

Startup Insider attended the event to take note of common trends emerging from both Asia and the West as startups from Asian countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and more exhibited alongside startups from the US, Canada, UK and more.

Below are some of our key takeaways and highlights from the event.

Think Global … right from the get go

We got the opportunity to sit down with Cheetah Mobile CEO Sheng Fu and Xero CEO Rod Drury. Cheetah Mobile has already gone public on the NYSE with only four years of operations, while Xero, an accounting software developer from New Zealand is planning to do so next year as well.

The common thing that helped both Cheetah Mobile and Xero grow so quickly? They started thinking about the global market from day one.

Sheng Fu shared, “It was my first trip to the US just 5 years ago when I realized the biggest difference between the US people and the Chinese people is the dream. If you think you can change the world, you have the chance. If you don’t think about it, you’ll never have the chance.”

Rod Drury shared, “Coming from a small country, when you only have 4 million consumers, you have to think global from day one. We’re also seeing the globalization of most things. Netflix is globalizing TV; Uber is globalizing taxi. I think one of our advantages being outside of the US is we’ve had to think about multiple countries right from day 1.”

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Just a glimpse of the hundreds of startups that exhibited

The Secret to Localisation in the Global Game

One of the first panel sessions at the Centre Stage was a panel on the game industry. Renowned game entrepreneurs Arthur Chow, Yat Siu and Misha Lyalin shared insights on how to think global while still keeping your game relevant to the local market. It was a discussion that would turn out to be relevant for most startups even outside the gaming industry.

They highlighted the importance of focusing on the ‘outside game’, which includes utilizing local marketing channels, hosting local events and hiring a local team. More than just localization, they also talked about the importance of culturalization and understanding the habits of locals and how they interact with technology.

Our chat with Cheetah Mobile CEO Sheng Fu also unveiled another key strategy of localizing through user reviews. He shared, “The mobile internet has made it easier than before. So we just focus on our product, user reviews and user comments, and solve every problem provided by the user reviews.”

Startup Trends

Mobile Ecommerce, Fin Tech, Clean Tech, Ed Tech, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Computer Vision, Drones, Wearable Technologies, Cloud Computing, 3D Printing… These were just a few trends we saw from the over 500 startups at the RISE Conference.

RISE held a startup competition that had two categories, the ‘Pitch’ category, which saw two IoT startups and one genetics startups battle it out in the finals, and the ‘Breakthrough’ category for companies just starting out.

The winner for the ‘Pitch’ final event was Ambi Climate, a smart air conditioning device, while the winner for the ‘Breakthrough’ event was Goxip, a mobile-first app that allows users to search, discover & shop fashion by image recognition, text search and celebrity style feeds.

While there was a big focus that was put on ‘ALPHA’ stage startups that were still in the super early stage, there were also more established startups that exhibited as part of the ‘START’ section including EduKart, Peatix, aCommerce, TradeGecko, Shopline, HotelQuickly, re:3D and more.

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The Goxip team after winning the BreakthroughHK Pitch Competition (Photo taken from Winnie Choy’s Twitter Account)

Startup Advice – ‘Don’t ever give up’

We interviewed a lot of startup founders over the two days at RISE, and the common advice they had for aspiring entrepreneurs was, “never give up”.

Goxip CEO Juliette Gimenez shared, “There’s always one moment when we want to give up almost every single day but you can’t just shut down. When Jack Ma launched Alibaba and started raising money, more than 200 Venture Capitalists flat-out rejected him but he didn’t give up. If Jack Ma went through a journey like that and built the company in over 10 years, we got to be the next one.”

Floship CEO Steve Suh added, “Entrepreneurship is a long journey and there will be times when mentally you’re going to struggle and ask yourself, ‘Is this really going to work out?’ It takes a lot of perseverance every single day and making sure that your subordinates are on the same page and are continually motivated.”

The Future is in Asia

One of the most anticipated panel discussions included GGV Capital Partner Jenny Lee, who was the highest-ranked woman on the Forbes Midas List. She started out her panel discussion by asking the audience, “Do you know where your smart phones come from?” The answer? Asia.

Jenny believes that the next wave of innovations will be coming from Asia because of the manufacturing expertise that the region has.

At the same time, she also believes that data collection is still at its infancy and that in the next 5-10 years, we’ll be seeing more sensors and data collection being utilized to create even smarter gadgets and technologies, with the internet of things being an area she sees huge potential for disruption.

Jenny shared, “We’ll see this innovation happening and it will be on a global basis. There is no one country that can claim that they’re running ahead because hardware is very hard. The product has to look cool, the consumer must be able to capture data…”

She foresees a future where companies can provide intelligent data for machines that will allow them to work without a human telling them what to do. She gave the example of nobody owning a car anymore because cars will know exactly when you need to go out based on your calendar.

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The RISE Conference Team all the way from Dublin (Photo taken from the RISE Twitter Account)

Globalization is the Present and Future

While past summits in the Asia region have focused on the growing Asia startup scene, the RISE Conference highlighted a larger overarching theme of globalization.

As the Internet, startup and technology worlds continue to develop, the world will only get flatter and more global companies will pop out in the next few years.

The very fact that Web Summit, a Dublin based conference organizer decided to bring RISE to Asia shows that more people from all over the world have their eyes on Asia. This type of cross-pollination and global interaction may just be the key ingredient that will drive the next wave of game changing startups and unicorns from Asia.

Cheetah Mobile CEO Sheng Fu shared, “Realize that globalization is a tsunami for the future. I think in the future, no company will be local. Maybe, all the companies are global companies because mobile Internet has made the world flatter than before. If you read the book of Steve Jobs, there was a sentence to describe how Jobs thinks, ‘there’s not going to be any localized phones in the future’, and indeed the Apple iPhone went all over the world.”

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David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in what he likes to call, LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his nonprofit organization YouthHack. It’s David’s goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. David can be reached via Twitter at @DOitChoco.

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