This week, TechCrunch (TC) ran an article on Tech in Asia (TiA), about the latter’s troubles and layoffs. TiA was swift to react, with an almost point-by-point rebuttal from its founder, Wills Wee.

Having missed the last two TiA events, and having contributed to TiA articles lately, I have something to say here:

The tech ecosystem in Southeast Asia needs TiA.  

Personally, I used to read TiA more than I do today. I used to read TC more than I do today as well.

Why the decline? Well, the simple reason is I got really busy over the last year, building up Momentum Works and its ventures.

The more nuanced explanation is that I evolved myself as an entrepreneur (a practitioner in the tech ecosystem), preferring analyses (and other types of in-depth content) over news.

Early days

But that’s just me. On the other hand, we are firm believers that the region’s tech ecosystem is still in its infancy. In fact, we have been arguing that.

After the hype in the previous years, more determined entrepreneurs are joining the tech ecosystem. And when I say entrepreneurs, I mean not only the founders, but also those who join companies early stage to build together.

These are all entrepreneurs

Why am I so confident to say that? Well, I have been aggressively recruiting since my Rocket Internet days, as early as in 2013. This year, even with the ‘big guys taking all the talent’ rumour, we still bring in much more exceptional individuals compared to the past.

And recently, TiA’s recruitment tool has been a pretty good resource during the process.

More demand for good content

We believe during this process, there is more demand for good content from more people.  So TiA’s very existence is not doomed – on the contrary, this is just the beginning.

However as the demand rises, TiA does need to constantly adjust its business to respond to shifting market needs – like any startup would.

Especially with the competition from Dealstreet Asia (run by our good friend Joji who is a formidably resilient journalist), KrAsia (from our friends 36Kr in Beijing) and so on. TiA has a good advantage (try searching its archive, and you will know what I mean) here.

Some of these adjustments (often in the forms of new products) will succeed, some of them will not. These are normal to ensure that an organisation is healthy, and growing.

The day after tomorrow

Any pioneer is almost destined to not have an easy life. We hate when people say ‘first mover advantage’ – because whoever saying it usually does not understand what really goes on.

We believe in ‘first mover curse’  – having to educate the market without the guarantee to reap the benefits once the market is educated. Well funded second movers are usually the luckiest.

Many of you have probably heard this quote, often attributed to Jack Ma (he might really have said it):

“Today is cruel, the day after tomorrow is beautiful, but most die tomorrow night.”

We sincerely hope that TiA will sail through the beautiful ‘day after tomorrow’ with us, the entrepreneurs in the region. And we believe it can, as long as the right things are done and mistakes corrected.

For instance, the move towards quality content over news – that’s a good response to what I raised earlier in the article: experienced entrepreneurs need in-depth content.

No we have not forgotten e27

E27, TiA’s long term competitor, seems to be announcing something the coming Monday.

Interesting times.

This is vintage

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.