One of the interesting things about Australian society and business in the last twenty years is how the nation seems to have turned away from Asia.
In the 1980s and early 90s, the country was focused on exporting services and building long term relationships in sectors ranging from Malaysian construction, Thai diary farming and legal services in China.
Twenty years later, Australian businesses and government seem to have given up with the consensus among industry and political leaders now being that all the nation can export is raw minerals, bulk agricultural goods with a sprinkling of third rate educational services.
Globally focused Australian businesses – particularly those in the startup sector – look to Silicon Valley for funding, inspiration and markets. Only a minority are looking North to Asia rather than across the Pacific.
ViDM – Ventures in Digital Media – is one of those businesses and CEO Willie Pang of the Sydney based advertising technology startup believes the time is to seize opportunities in growing Asian markets rather than concentrating on Silicon Valley financing and exits.
“Focus on building a great business. If you have a great business someone will buy you,” says Willie.
The opportunity ViDM sees is in advertising trading platforms bringing together publishers and advertisers across the digital, print and broadcasting channels. Willie expects this market to be worth eight billion dollars across Asia within five years.
Many of those opportunities in the Asian market are in business-to-business markets such as advertising platforms which is another difference to the largely consumer focused Silicon Valley model.
For Australian business, Willie doesn’t see funding as being an issue with money being available for smaller startups and mature companies.
Like in Silicon Valley the real problem lies for business in the middle stages of their development where they are too big for angels and smaller funds but not interesting for the bigger investors. That grey zone lies between two and ten million dollars.
For the companies that do raise the funds and go hunting in Asian markets, the rewards can be great. Not only do this economies have great growth rates, the diversities of Asian countries mean there are different opportunities lying in each nation or even provinces.
Right now, US businesses are focussed domestically or just on a narrow range of opportunities catering to affluent Chinese consumers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Willie sees that as another opportunity, while US and European companies are distracted it’s a good time to be entering the Asian markets. But that window of opportunity won’t last forever.
“We’ll either play in that space or the Americans will do it” says Willie.
The opportunity is open to us. Will we grab it?