As a Product Manager at Appdome, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several conferences this year. I recently traveled to Singapore for two different events: CloudWorld Asia and the Singapore Fintech Festival. Aside from meeting new friendly people and devouring incredible food, here’s what I gained from my time there:
Technology is a global phenomenon, and being based in the United States can create a “first world” bias. The majority of tech inventions and companies originate in the US, but expanding to other markets presents hurdles. Data residency and translation are obvious technical challenges, but localization—understanding the needs and preferences of a different culture—requires a deliberate effort, strategic input from people of said culture, and adaptation of your offering. Did you know Uber doesn’t exist in most of Asia? They spent hundreds of millions of dollars, yet didn’t appreciate how business was done at the hyper-local level, like supporting cash transactions or partnering with neighborhood businesses, and ended up selling and pulling out in 2018. Now the locally-built Grab, Didi, and Gojek (who understood what locals needed and preferred) compete and co-exist in Southeast Asia.
The speed and breadth of innovation in Asia are off the charts. In the US, tech media tends to focus on 1 or 2 players disrupting a given industry (WeWork is a good example of this), giving the impression that there’s no room for others to expand the vision or focus on a niche or differentiator; we think “copy cats” are boring and uninspired. The reality is today’s disruptor is tomorrow’s must-have capability, and roaming the conference floor aisles, I saw dozens of virtual banks, cloud solutions, and fintech products offering degrees of modernization that many US-based companies of all sizes would benefit from.
There’s more than enough opportunity to go around, and the capacity for producing solutions is plentiful. Singapore is a business hub, so in addition to the many local tech entrepreneurs, I met banking executives from Ghana, CISOs from India, CEOs from the Philippines, and on and on—all looking to learn, share, and discuss new ways of operating. In the post-COVID, work-from-home, virtual-everything tech industry, getting out of my office has introduced me to some great people, new ideas, and different perspectives. I recommend trying it yourself; hope to meet you out there.