Are you an SAP.iO Startup Looking to Expand Your Operations in Asia? Here are your top tips on how to accelerate your Asia Strategy!
Asia’s rich tech scene and supply chain ecosystem as well as its stellar pool of global talent make it a prime region for expansion, holding billion-dollar opportunities for your enterprise startup. But, with this exciting growth opportunity comes a variety of challenges for this diverse region. Check out these key insights from Taulia, Asia Market Entry, and the Singapore Economic Development Board on how to lead a successful expansion and go-to-market in Asia!
Meet The Players: Our Asia Expansion Experts
Jade Sear, Director, Program Management & Business Development, APAC, Taulia and Steve Scott, Head of APAC, Taulia
-Taulia (now part of the SAP Group) is a leading fintech provider of working capital management solutions that helps companies access liquidity tied up in their payables, receivables and inventory, helping their customers and suppliers to access cash when and where they need it most.
Anthony Howe, Commercial Director, Asia Market Entry
-Asia Market Entry works with successful SaaS and technology companies who want to build a sales pipeline in Asia and test the market for expansion without large scale investment.
Brandon Chia, Senior Associate, Markets, Brand, Marketing and Communications, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB)
EDB is a government agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry whose mission is to create sustainable economic growth, with vibrant business and good job opportunities for Singapore, generating growth in disruptive areas. The EDB helps companies to expand in Asia through our programs, connections and government support schemes.
Setting The Stage: Taulia’s Launch in APAC
Headquartered in San Francisco, Taulia decided to first expand to Sydney, Australia in 2019 as a soft-landing and micro-step in entering the APAC region. With customers in Australia, it was the perfect place to put some feet on the ground and understand how to extend into the market and grow into the region. As a huge trading hub and melting pot of cultures teaming with learning opportunities, networking, and a large community experienced global business leaders, Taulia chose Singapore as its launching pad into Asia last year and has since expanded to China. While Taulia continues to see growing success in Asia, the journey has been full of twists, turns, and a lot of learning along the way!
Top Tools for a Successful Expansion in Asia
1. Local, Trusted Relationships
It was critical for Taulia to understand the market dynamics in the region, and they stressed the importance of trusted people and relationships that helped them master an understanding of the local market as well as reduce the complexity of the region. Taulia had a great relationship with the Singapore Economic Development Board who guided them in understanding the local nuances, ways to approach people and customers, and helped them get a clear view on what the market does. Whether it be people you know and trust from a “past life,” investors, people you are introduced to, your startup must leverage these relationships and rely on local leadership so you can understand how to best deliver your product to serve the local marketplace in the best possible way.
2. Organizational Agility
When it comes to staffing, product, culture, and people, a startup must be agile to successfully move to Asia. Startups cannot simply follow the traditional formula or model of other markets, but must understand the culture in order to create a nuanced approach for both people and products. Taulia shared that after they hired a local salesperson on the ground, they had to quickly refine and pivot the role based on what they learned in the market. In order to successfully expand in Asia, your startup must be able to make fast, smart decisions.
3. Face-to-Face Efforts
As Taulia began its expansion during the height of COVID, there was a lot of difficulty in building trusted relationships virtually; it was extremely time-consuming, took a lot of effort, and was much more challenging to try and understand the backgrounds, cultures, and environments of those they were interacting with. Ever since the world has been able to “come together” in person again, Taulia has seen major traction over the last 6 months and a huge difference in business results and productivity, simply by physically being in the market, meeting people, and networking in person. It is critical to invest in face-to-face efforts in order to create a trusted, powerful network. The zooms and virtual conferences are nice, but nothing beats human interaction. Period.
4. Partnerships to Build a Presence
If you are building a presence in Asia but don’t yet have a team on the ground, your startup must build strategic partnerships to build a local presence. Taulia’s investors had contacts who knew and understand the Singapore and Chinese markets and were therefore able to connect them with the right partners. From setting up bank accounts to attracting new talent in the region, the collective knowledge of working with someone who knows and understands the market is the most efficient and quickest way to expand. Importantly, don’t be afraid to make a decision; your biggest mistake on working on a partnership strategy is to over plan and underact. Taulia shared how their global alliance with JP Morgan was extremely impactful for their success, as a partner that had global reach and a strong infrastructure that really helped them scale. Bottom line? Figure out a partnering matrix. Things will be very hard at the very best if you go for it on your own. And another tip? Deals will help make a partnership work!
Know Before You Go
Customer Customer Customer: Make sure you have a deal! If there is a customer who wants to buy your product, you will be ahead of everyone! But it’s important to note: What you do with your first and second customer is not what you will do with your third customer. Make sure you can adapt and change, and continue to learn the market. Just because you had a couple of successful customers does not mean that the rest will come so easily.
Do your homework — Is there really a market? Understand the need that you are delivering to. Don’t assume that what you do in your home market will resonate with how you sell in a new market.
Plan, then be ready to swerve: Write your business plan carefully, and then be ready to adjust and deviate. Be prepared to change things fast, and make sure to ask yourself all the questions and think through all the scenarios.
Great things take time: Things will take longer than expected, and it is best to even be pessimistic about your planning and deadlines. Think bank accounts and organizational red tape.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere: Be mindful of time zone logistics for a global workforce. Your startup will have colleagues working all over the world, and it is critical that you organize and synchronize your working day (when you send documents, when you establish workflows, emails and meetings) based on time-zones for prime efficiency.
Supporting YOU in Accelerating Your Asia Strategy
We invite you to utilize the expertise from your friends at Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Asia Market Entry, and Taulia as you embark on your Asia expansion journey.
· The EDB helps leading enterprise startups to expand to Asia using Singapore as a launchpad, through their programs, connections, and government support schemes, and have helped the likes of Google, Stripe, Twilio, and Sprinklr to succeed in Asia. To set up a chat with the EDB, please contact Brandon Chia at firstname.lastname@example.org. And sign up for the EDB Insights newsletter to stay in the know on the latest business guides and programs to help you succeed in Asia
· If you are looking for support and guidance in your market expansion journey in Asia through go-to-market planning, marketing support, partnerships opportunities, and business development support. please feel free to reach out to Anthony Howe from Asia Market Entry at email@example.com
· If you are looking to connect with Taulia to hear more about their successful expansion in Singapore and China, please reach out to Jade Sear at Jade.Sear@taulia.com