Challenges and opportunities of being a deep-tech female founder in Southeast Asia
What drives you as an entrepreneur?
Despite having a non-technical background, I was fascinated by the power of technology to change our lives in amazing ways and wanted to be part of an innovative idea that can make the world better. The prime motivation behind founding Tookitaki was solving a global problem: money laundering. If you can help banks curb money laundering, you are actually helping stop a number of crimes, such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and corruption, that have serious implications for human lives.
What are the biggest changes in the tech industry in SEA that you have seen since you began your journey as an entrepreneur?
Over the years, I have seen the countries in SEA, especially Singapore, developing a pro-technology culture in terms of upgraded educational systems, policies aimed nurturing innovative start-ups and the creation of well-oiled tech ecosystems that help entrepreneurs. New-age technologies such as AI and machine learning are taking over our lives, and SEA has been very quick to identify their benefits. These countries are encouraging both big businesses to use modern technologies and technology companies to fine-tune their innovation and scale up to other markets.
How do you think the technology industry needs to change in SEA in order to see more female entrepreneurs gain success?
It’s a fact that the tech industry has more male entrepreneurs than their female counterparts. However, from my experience, the industry is neither biased against gender nor discriminative. The sector looks for skills, innovative and collaborative mindset, risk-taking attitude and perseverance. Those who are aspiring to become entrepreneurs in the tech sector should be willing to persevere past the initial stages of skepticism from colleagues. Just believe in yourself and learn diligently.
To me, grit matters more than pedigree — I do not have a technology background but learned it on the job as I had the grit and believed in thinking from the first principle.
Are there any markets in SEA where you see Female entrepreneurs thriving?
From a general entrepreneurship perspective, I found almost all countries in the region having a good number of female entrepreneurs. From a technology perspective, Singapore seemingly has a big share of female entrepreneurs. I believe the country’s love for technology, status as an international hub, world-class facilities and a business-friendly atmosphere is helping the womenfolk here.
What are your predictions for the next 10 years in the tech industry? In which technologies or sectors do you feel the opportunities for female entrepreneurs will lie?
With the pace of change we experience in the technology sector, it’s hard to make any predictions in the space in the next 10 years. As an entrepreneur in the AI/machine learning space, I believe the following will be key changes in the industry:
1) Automation will take over many repetitive low-end business workflows
2) AI and machine learning will change the way we live now. Businesses, both B2C and B2B, will adopt these technologies to offer enhanced, personalised experience for customers who will be able to do their tasks better and faster.
3) With AI and machine learning rising to prominence, there will be heightened regulatory pressure on the way businesses handle data. Data privacy regulations will see incremental changes. Technology companies will have to rethink their approach of preserving data privacy at the same time building sophisticated systems using AI and machine learning.
4) In the job area, software development will see ultra-specialization and those experienced in AI and machine learning will have a competitive edge.
Information and communication technology, design and construction, life sciences, consumer products, and travel and tourism are some of the sectors where women entrepreneurs can excel.