Learnings from foreign start-up eco-systems | #ConnectiveCities

Over the past few days I was lucky enough to be able to attend a very interesting workshop in Germany hosted by the #ConnectiveCities project. The workshop was about ‘how local ecosystem can help to develop start-ups” and enabled me to meet quite a lot of interesting people and listen and understand the needs and experiences of other eco-systems than just our local one here in Myanmar. I’ll share a few take aways and thoughts here.

When Worlds Collide

One funny experience we had in one of the workshops: A representative from another European country explained that their initiative received ‘too’ much funding from the government and they don’t really know how to use it reasonably. The government clearly wants to do ‘something’ with start-ups but doesn’t exactly know what and therefore now puts the pressure on certain initiatives by handing them lots of money but also lots of responsibilities. So far we haven’t been in a similar situation over here but if we ever happen to be in such kind of ‘trouble’ we will surely be ready, right community?

Speaking of colliding worlds. Another interesting situation that occurred while we (representatives from ASEAN countries) talked to our counter parts from Europe: Freedom of speech is something that is widely considered ‘normal’ in Europe but when we talked about some of the limitations over here in Southeast Asia people have been pretty surprised and started to wonder whether the ‘problems’ they face actually are real problems.

This leads to a very valuable take-away. Especially for me as someone who grew up in Europe but who has been living in Southeast Asia for quite a while now. In Europe the start-up eco-system and its development seems to face different issues compared to Southeast Asia and those issues seem to be mostly related to organizational and allocation problems. Whilst Southeast Asian participants mainly tried to figure out how to reach more people and spread the word about start-up initiatives Europeans mostly tried to figure out a way how to allocate budget better and how to further cooperation between different institutional players within the eco-system.

The ‘developing start-up world’ might be more open and flexible than the developed world.

This is now a headline that most people would not have expected, right? And I agree. It’s quite surprising and I didn’t plan on writing that. At all. But after having talked with lots of start-up people from Europe over the past and comparing it to what happens here in Southeast Asia I think it’s safe to say that innovative ideas, or lets say ideas that tackle real world problems are more common over here than they are back home in the ‘old world’.

Moreover it seems that, while there certainly is lots of funding and more money involved the structures are quite strict and in order to get funding you have to stick to already established ways and organizational structures. Over here it is, with quite likely less money involved, a bit more of a ‘free’ atmosphere. The structures (if there are any) are not that strict and you are not bound to already existing policies and principles. This is not necessarily and advantage of course since it can be a real pain in the ass to convince potential old-school investors and governmental officials to believe in your idea – it does, however, give you a bit of freedom in terms of structuring, planning and executing your start-up idea.

Obviously there can be points made for and against strict structures. Minimizing risk on one hand side, cutting down on creativity on the other. The fact of the matter however that I take away is that we here in Southeast Asia aren’t as much of a developing country as others might think. At least not in terms of start-ups and entrepreneurship. We don’t have that much background and not as many working incubators, consultants, etc. but we do have the ability to learn from others and adapt prior or existing models to our needs while modifying them for a maximized success.

While we can all agree on that we over here do have lots of catching up to do we don’t need to hide and can be proud of how fast we have developed. That is definitely something to build upon!


Myanmar-Startups.com brings you interesting start-up related information from Myanmar, Interviews with up and coming start-ups and offers start-up consulting in order to move our wonderful country forward. Thankfully powered by My-Thai.org & sayfun.me

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