While Southeast Asia’s digital economy is booming, the region has long complained about Silicon Valley’s reluctance to invest there. But that trend may be changing, according to one tech CEO.
Neumob CEO Jeff Kim told Borderless Asia Online that he sees Silicon Valley’s investment in the region picking up. The company, whose flagship product Neumob Accelerator boosts mobile app performance by 2-10 times, announced earlier this month its launch into Vietnam and Malaysia.
“Smart investors have been looking to Southeast Asia for the last several years, but I do see investment in the region growing faster lately,” he told Borderless.
“There are tons of amazing companies sprouting out of this area, and we’re excited to see many investors looking outside the Bay Area to explore important emerging markets,” he said.
“Investors are realizing it’s time to take advantage of the growing number of users and potential customers in mobile-first regions like Southeast Asia,” he said.
In a region where the Internet can be slow in places, the goal of the company’s presence in Southeast Asia is to speed up load times and performance for the most popular apps in the region. Those include WhatsApp, Facebook, Piano Tiles 2, WeChat and Instagram, as well as apps created by Southeast Asian companies, such as EasyAp Building, Golden Screen Cinemas, Saved — Budget and Expense Tracker, Simple Travel List, Dialer+, imam Pro-Islamic prayer time app and MyKad Smart Shopper Discover.
“Users in Southeast Asia are abandoning apps at an astounding rate, because they load too slowly on 2G, 3G, 4G and even WiFi networks,” he said. “By working with an app accelerator that is not only laser-focused on the needs of mobile customers, but actually has a presence in the market where their users are, app developers can rest assured knowing they can easily tap into this lucrative, mobile-first market.”
Many consumers in the region find PCs too pricy and too inconvenient. So most Internet users in the region go online using their mobile phones, with Malaysia and Vietnam being two of Asia’s fastest-growing markets in which the Internet is primarily accessed by mobile phone.
“Investors, companies and developers alike are chomping at the bit to acquire users in the area, but these mobile-first plus mobile-only users have an especially high bar for app performance – and are quick to abandon slow-loading or poorly performing apps. That’s why they need a tool like our accelerator to make their acquisition and user retention goals a reality,” he said.
Kim said Malaysia and Vietnam are both burgeoning, mobile-first markets that are ripe for innovation in the area of app experience.
“Malaysia in particular was a natural first choice for us – the country’s mobile penetration has just exploded over the last couple years,” he said, noting that there are more than 10 million smartphone users in Malaysia alone. “So the market for mobile apps is enormous.”
“Vietnam isn’t far behind–eMarketer cites it as the third-fastest-growing smartphone market in the world. Alongside this mobile shift, app usage is also exploding, with Asia’s mobile app economy seeing 77 percent growth last year,” he said.
Kim said many consumers across Southeast Asia are consuming games and shopping apps on congested 2G and 3G networks, which makes the latency and lag issues in their apps even more pronounced than they would otherwise be.
“Consumers in this region will be happy to see their app speeds increase,” he said, contending that his company will “give companies looking to break into this region the guarantee that their apps will always run quickly and efficiently.”
Neumob has so far raised $10.9 million. When asked what that tells him about investors’ interest in Southeast Asia’s digital economy, Kim said: “In general, I’ve noticed VCs playing close attention to companies with a global scope.”
“It’s easier (for investors) to get on board with a company that reaches lucrative, mobile-first economies like Southeast Asia and India, which have quickly become powerhouses in the tech sector, and which continue to attract attention for the rapid adoption of smartphones, apps and mobile commerce innovations,” he said.
“For this reason, we expect to see even more investment in companies that service a global client base in 2016,” he said.
When asked how he expects his company’s product to perform in Malaysia and Vietnam, he said the company expects: “that our app acceleration product will be very popular with developers looking to reach users in this region, especially as we become more well-known in the region.”
Photo credit: istockphoto/Rat007
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