Echelon Technology & Entrepreneurs Conference 2015 – Thailand

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The Future of Technology Advancement in Asia

The Echelon Technology & Entrepreneurs Conference 2015 represented a reality check, sure I felt galvanized and enlightened but I also felt like I was getting old as I was surrounded by young up and coming entrepreneurs, writes a 40 year old Dan Cheeseman – Managing Director Choice Group Asia (Thaivisa, Inspire Digital, Pattaya Channel TV).

This conference was designed to connect entrepreneurs in a discussion about the future of technology in Thailand and was attended by 1,000 delegates from across Asia, including the LINE MD for Thailand, representatives from Amazon, Mediacorp and the Thai ministry of Technology and Information.

It was a much needed shot in the arm to keep pushing on and to ignore the local competition – or by that I mean general weakness of the large majority of foreign media here in Thailand – and set new parameters and goals. To think big, but then think bigger. Yes, Choice Group Asia has continued to grow but it must do more than just grow, it must raise the bar and innovate in moving forward. How, for example, will we use explore the new mobile phone watches for media disruption and how do we ensure we are leaders in growth areas like LINE accounts? Local television won’t be here for ever, so how is Choice Group Asia moving with the future to migrate Pattaya Channel TV online?

One big plus was Inspire is ahead of its time, the talk when I was with Google in Hong Kong a couple of months ago was about migrating traffic among a range of platforms rather than being too heavily geared on one platform, and in this conference they said modern media must disrupt consumers on a number of platforms as they go about their daily lives. This was always the fundamental principle underpinning Inspire. So hats off to this, at least!

Anyway, enough about Choice Group Asia; here were the key points I took from each of the main speakers.

LINE Application
(Ariya Banomyong, Managing Director, LINE Thailand)

• 40 million mobile internet users in Thailand
o Growth area especially with 4G
o 33 million are LINE users in Thailand
• #2 country for LINE behind Japan
o Teenage to Mums and Dads users
• LINE TV also a part of their proposition
• Online TV very important to digital product enhancement
• Plans for 2016
o From chat to platform
• E.g. Use to buy something (LINE pay)
• Make it convenient for the consumer
o Integration of services
• So can use more of the services
o News service and partnerships
• Develop in-house – will have own team in Thailand so can create own products for Thailand rather than currently take from other country
• New partnerships
• DISRUPTION
o It’s all about this. Who are we disrupting and why?
• Footnote: So where can we cause most disruption to our consumers? I.e. what platform or get in front of them non-digital maybe?
• Mergers of main players provide dominant players and they can then cut their marketing spend as there is no longer anyone to compete with, this allows them to invest in the market development rather than spend just to win the existing market share from competitors. Survival and sustainability is then created.

Mobile – Startup Ecosystems, App Trends in Analytics, Marketing and User Acquistion
(Charles Rim, Managing Director, Tapjoy)

• Still tremendous growth, but consolidation is not far away
• Example Latest Global Valuations: Pinterest $11billion, WhatsApp $18b, Flipboard $1b
• No true startup valuation matrix, as much is dependent upon the people involved
• Product Metrics to Valuations Standards in Silicon Valley: Traction, Expected near-term revenues, Growth & Engagement, Market Size and Competition – not to forget, eventually it’s the Revenue Opportunity
• Advertisers are now coming to Thailand to acquire online users
• 85% of mobile users are via App
• 3.5% – Only small percentage of users are paying users (Korean stats)
o 35% of this is a one time app purchase
• A data perspective gives you the best chance of success
o E.g Analytics & Predictive Analytics
• The days of banner advertising on mobile is dying this is not the way to monetise now
• As users move more and more to mobile and tablet – how does Thaivisa continue to monetise as successfully with limited banner opportunity
o Supports creating new platforms such as Online radio to as a new monetisation revenue streams

Why Geo-Arbitrage is the key to Transnational Business Strategy
(Conor Bracken, CEO and Founder of Andovar)

• Start ups in Thailand
o Advantages: Costs and Lifestyle
o Disadvantages: Legal & Accounting, Investor Protections, Taxes & Compliance
• Pay high paid employees partially offshore to protect high severance payments if you want to get rid of them as labour law very tough in Thailand
• Indian Labour costs between 20 and 33% cheaper (Dependent upon location) than Bangkok
o Standard of English much higher than Thailand
o Everyone said how difficult this would be to set up in India…in fact, cultural and practical issues were fewer than expected
• Colombia
o No longer dangerous, access to US time zone, 100% foreign ownership possible, stable inflation
• Once company has revenues over $1m in monthly revenues you will save by setting up in Singapore
o Set up BOI in Thailand of new company to service your Singapore company
• Hong Kong is a good place to bank privately

Embracing the Early Adopter Culture in Southeast Asia

• Early Adopters – who join new technology launches first
o Who are these groups in Southeast Asia?
• 30+ somethings, earn good money, technology savvy
• People born after the year 2000
• People just graduated – Primary target groups, as they want to spend on technology. Key group to target

Getting Startup Funding with a Venture Capitalist in Asia

• 1 in 100 companies that pitch to a VC will get funding by a Venture Capitalists across the world
o 3 in 100 in Vietnam current estimates
• Key things they look for:
o Value startup will provide
o The team involved – most VC identified this as primary
• Do you back a horse or a jockey? The jockey, as if the horse dies you still have a jockey to ride another horse!
o The numbers: users, revenues etc – everything else is just a crystal ball
o Be able to sell the vision that fits with that particular VC
• Don’t overdo the business plan when presenting your opportunity.
o Keep it simple – what’s your advantage, market traction etc
o They assess the founder more
• Don’t talk about (they don’t care): 5 year projections –its BS, only first 12 months. Over confidence in your product – bordering arrogance – be honest.
• Indonesia big focus area for VCs
o Vietnam also high
• China turning into a consumer driven location like America
o So consider nearby locations that can service these

How successful startups use the cloud
(AWS)

• Why in the cloud?
o No legacy, dependencies, lower cost structure and you can move quickly
o “Cloud is like a fertiliser that creates startups” Eric Ries
• Book ‘The lean startup’
• How do startups use the cloud?
o Focus on the customer
• Why did dropbox succeed when other failed?
• Customer centric – simple to use and it worked
o Be ready for success
• Everything is programmable so be ready / have automation in place
• Pinterest only had 2 IT backend staff handling 18m+ users
o Think Big
• Availability of global infrastructure access wherever you live, take advantage of this

Startup opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam & Myanmar
(Heang Chhor – Founder Qualgro)

• Quadruple growth projection in Myanmar by 2018 in consumer spend
o Currently poor infrastructure and lacks talent / digital platform viewed as good opportunity
o Online travel huge opportunity to develop
o Online education as they cannot build schools fast enough for development in the country
o 50m+ population / Its like Thailand 20 years ago
• Thailand – Upbeat about Thailand

Creating a startup community that attracts the right talent and embraces the community – best comments from forum discussion:

• Offer unlimited leave, remove sick days – you don’t have to ring and say you are sick – just ring and take a day off. If you get the right people, no one abuses this.
• Ensure a fit culturally

How is technology revolutionising consumer lifestyle?

• Traditional media trying to transform, continue to be on the big screen but engage with the consumer who – unlike before – is now in control.
o How can they use data better so they give consumers what they want?
o Wherever the consumer is new media wants to be there (exactly what inspires mission has been – gym tv, promotion in restaurants, app, print partnerships etc)
o How do we produce content that is relevant for the modern consumer who is in control…Giving the customer exactly what they want.
• Its now all about the mobile.
• Under 24 year olds are now digital first – so buying a book now is not something they would want to do.
• Increasing more into Visual – as people don’t like to read anymore and want information as quickly as they can
• Social digital factors – ensures good filtering, good stuff gets shared and bad stuff filtered out
• How can you adapt consumer models to improve online content as a media business? Do you give consumers access to your tools so that they can produce better output

By Dan Cheeseman – Managing Director Choice Group Asia (Thaivisa, Inspire Digital, Pattaya Channel TV).

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