Preparing for an Entrepreneurial Surge Post-COVID

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

November 19, 2020

Even amid the pandemic, Asia has witnessed a surge in startups, particularly in the technology domain. This has been fostered by advances made in emerging technologies, formation of startup associations and development of favorable business policies. Emerging economy governments are aggressively pushing for the growth of a startup culture by providing much needed seed capital and acceleration programs for innovative ideas.

Asia is Home to One-third of all Billion Dollar Startups

A decade ago, entrepreneurs often came with illustrious educational backgrounds. However, a new breed of decisive risk-taking entrepreneurs is emerging who do not necessarily have university degrees. However, they are armed with specific skillsets such as coding or programming and coupled with their aptitude for problem-solving, this breed of entrepreneurs is indeed making waves in the startup scape.

As of October 2020, Asia-Pacific (APAC) was home to 171 unicorns – or companies with a valuation over $1 billion. There were 31 additional APAC companies that made it to the list this year. China leads the pack with 119 unicorns, while India is a distant second with 23. Globally, there are now 490 startups with a unicorn status. 

Southeast Asian startups showed their resilience by registering an almost doubling of investments amounting to $2.7 billion – increasing by a noteworthy 91 percent from 2019 levels. This feat was achieved despite the pandemic’s onset and an almost standstill across most sectors. Horasis firmly believes Asian entrepreneurs are well on track to achieve more accelerated growth in a post-COVID world. In this regard, Horasis will be engaging with corporate and government leaders in the upcoming Horasis Asia Meeting scheduled for 30 November 2020.

Technology Companies Rule the Roost

Tech companies have been at the forefront in terms of leading startup growth. With lockdowns and the move to working from home, there was little option but to embrace technology platforms. One particular tech company that made waves earlier in 2020 was Zoom – a now familiar online meeting platform. It became the staple for educational institutions and corporates alike and despite security concerns that threatened to gnaw at its heels, the company has sailed on calm waters since. In fact, parallels have been drawn to suggest the business travel industry will be impacted since Zoom has allowed for virtual meetings to progress with almost as much seamlessness as a physical one.

Education technology or edutech made swift gains on account of all learning taking place online. India based Byju’s is now the world’s most valued edutech company and it now has the US market in its sights.

Ride hailing companies in the APAC, meanwhile, were impacted mostly on their primary business area. But considering the ‘super-apps’ that the likes of Grab, Go-Jek and Didi Chuxing have become, each noted significant spikes in their e-wallet services vertical. Contactless payment service providers have become all the rage amid the pandemic and considering Generation Z’s preference for technology, there is strong reason to believe that such payment preferences will continue well beyond the pandemic.

SMEs Must Adjust their Sails

The APAC is forecast to be the world’s growth engine. No doubt the stalwarts will be multinational conglomerates with astronomical valuations. But what will ensure inclusivity for society at large will continue to be the SME sector.

If current trends are a yardstick, then SMEs must realign their operations to become more active participants in a post-COVID world – one that will have deeper tech integration at its core. It is imperative for small business owners to research, identify, and allocate resources to try and incorporate technology in their daily operations. More importantly, it is necessary to maintain an online presence by investing in a website and a social media presence.

The forecasted entrepreneurial surge will need SME owners to readjust their sails and ensure they are keeping abreast with technology trends.

A More Sustainable Approach is also Necessary

Much as business growth must be prioritized on, it must come with a greater sense of responsibility. Business owners across the spectrum must consciously attempt to reduce their carbon footprints. The usual tendency to ignore environmental concern as only the government’s domain must evolve. Each individual must be accountable and just as one ensures that inventory is maintained or timely loan repayments are made, likewise, environment concern is also key.

In a rather disturbing trend, images of carelessly discarded personal protective equipment is often broadcast and shared. PPE recycling efforts in the developing world have been few and far between. It begets the question, “has the cure possibly become bigger than the disease itself?”

The pandemic must serve as an inflection point in terms of how questionable practices have led to environmental degradation. A reckless approach with scant regard for society and environment is myopic at best. The environment and communities form the very basis of the market that businesses want to cater to and overlooking them is a futile endeavor.