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Unicorn Strategies in Southeast Asia: Implications for the US and Asian Collaborative Innovation

    Southeast Asia (SEA) has given rise to many unicorns and is heading towards a renewed economic boom, fast becoming a global innovation hub in the digital era. To address this new unicorn phenomenon, Georgia Tech Center for International Business Education and Research and University of San Francisco Center for Business Studies and Innovation in Asia-Pacific jointly hosted a webinar on November 2nd, 2022, garnering viewers from over 36 countries.

    Xiaohua Yang, Professor, and Director of the Center for Business Studies and Innovation in Asia-Pacific (CBSI-AP), opened the event, highlighting the potential of Southeast Asia to become a global innovation hub. Professor Yang shed light on the region’s demography and cumulative GDP and their potential implications for US and Southeast collaborative innovation.

    The event was graced by Fr. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President of the University of San Francisco, who offered a warm welcome to the audience and shared that there are over 6,000 USF alums currently living in Asia, with many distinguished alumni, including Putra Masagung, whom the Masagung Graduate School of Management in USF is named after and Arthur Tay, who has built ten marinas around the world and devoted himself to Blue Water environmental sustainability project.  It was natural for USF to launch the new Center for Business Studies and Innovation in Asia-Pacific.

    The first panel,” Exploring the Southeast Asia Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Academic and Theoretical Aspects,” featured three of the world’s leading scholars in this field and was moderated by Dr. John R McIntyre, Professor of Strategy & Innovation, Executive Director, Georgia Tech Center for International Business Education and Research.

    A brief excerpt of what the three speakers covered is as follows. Dr. Diego Finchelstein, Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina, discussed the empirics, development, and comparative study for Southeast Asia markets. Prof. Dr. Sri Adiningsih, M.Sc. – Economist, Faculty of Economics, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, talked about the Indonesian market. She provided insights about the country and emphasized the flexibility, diversity, challenges, and opportunities for the Indonesian market. Lastly, Dr. Ahmad Gamal – Universitas Indonesia explored the Southeast Asia market further by highlighting the current innovation in the various SEA countries.

    The event later shifted to Panel Two, with Moderator Professor Roger Chen, Professor of Strategy and Innovation, University of San Francisco. The theme is “Entrepreneur/Executives’ Perspectives: The Rise of Unicorns in Southeast Asia,” featuring five industry stalwarts.

    The presentation was started by Mr. Mitch Padua, Chief Product Officer of PayMaya Philippines, the most comprehensive digital platform in the Philippines, with a staggering market share of over 44%, both online and face-to-face transactions. Mr. Padua expressed his mobile-first platform and his startup journey. The next speaker was Mr. Rob Schimek, CEO, Bolttech, Singapore, a leading insure-tech company operating in North America, Europe, and Asia. He depicted his shift from the embedded insurance space to becoming a technology-enabled global insurance exchange company, putting it in amateur terms of exchanging insurance between buyers and sellers. Bolttech received the world’s largest Series A funding for any insurance-tech company. The next speaker was Mr. Muhammad Aditriya Indraputra, founder of, Indonesia, a company that focuses on improving child healthcare with a unified platform connecting parents and pediatricians. Mr. Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa, founder and group CEO, Bitkub Capital Group Holdings Co., Ltd, spoke about the company becoming the largest Fin-Tech company in Thailand and was the only finance technology company with over 2,000 employees and the biggest blockchain and digital currency-oriented company. Bitkub holds a ~100% market share in the country. Finally, Dr. Sue Xu, Managing Partner, Amino Capital, a tech-driven early-stage investor in Silicon Valley, spoke about their strategies for scouting and developing data-driven tech startups in Silicon Valley and Asia. With a laser focus on talent, Dr. Xu offered commitment and insights into Southeast Asia markets.

    The webinar ended with a robust Q&A between the audience and the panelists, enabling further exchange of ideas on collaborative innovation between the US and emerging Southeast Asia.