We line up key trends discussed in our calls with leaders across fintech, ecommerce, and deep tech, from Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand

L-R: Flip VP of Product Sourabh Gupta, Fazz Deputy CEO and co-founder Tianwei Liu, Konvy CEO and co-founder Qing Gui Huang, Brankas CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer, IVA alum Leon Yip

10 Challenges and Opportunities for Startups the Rest of 2024: Trends Uncovered from our Podcast

We line up key trends discussed in our calls with leaders across fintech, ecommerce, and deep tech, from Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand

10 episodes into season 6 of On Call with Insignia, we line up key trends for startups this 2024 discussed in our calls with leaders across fintech, ecommerce, and deep tech, from Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Pricing strategies are in for a rude awakening, so customer loyalty is more critical than ever for startup pricing pivots

Challenge: Need to adapt pricing strategy to changing competitive and fundraising landscape with the right tradeoff of margins and churn (in users that were likely not paying in any case).

Opportunity: Startups with loyal customer bases to develop new forms of retention

“So our idea was clear: if we are able to lock in these pools of users who unlock enough value from our platform, then they should be willing to pay for that. We did multiple AB tests to calibrate what is the value at which churn is not too much, but growth is still there.” – Flip VP of Product Sourabh Gupta from this episode

Startups competing along the lines of customer service/success and product maintenance

Challenge: Companies need to cut costs, and prioritize certain products over others

Opportunity: Competitive edge for companies that invest in customer service and maintenance.

How does customer service factor in the value for money? Regardless if you’re in B2C or B2B or both, differentiation in value proposition can come in heavily through aftersales, especially with entry products or services that are commoditized or very similar across the competitive landscape.

“It’s not always in terms of the product features you have, if you work with B2B, a lot of time it’s about the service that you’re getting after sales services…” – Flip VP of Product Sourabh Gupta from this episode

Factor in cost of maintaining products vis-a-vis their ability to generate healthy unit economics and the team’s ability to develop these products further (that or adjust the team).

“There’s always a cost to maintain products. So focus on one or two key ideas where you think there is potential to make money and where you understand the consumers more.” – Flip VP of Product Sourabh Gupta from this episode

The One-Two Step of Bringing Blockchain Mainstream into Payments Goes Beyond Regulation

Challenge: How does one drive mainstream adoption of blockchain? It’s not enough to drive regulatory acceptance. 

Opportunity: The key is to focus on driving seamlessness and lowering costs to unlock the app layer for blockchain innovation in the mainstream.

For the payments industry, moving forward the momentum of innovation comes in stages.

“There’s so many things you can do, but in [a certain] order…it must be first, be able to increase the acceptance and make sure that it’s as seamless as possible without drop off rate. Then you go into costs. Can I make sure my cost is as low as possible, especially for cross border…Then the innovation, which is free game for a lot of guys to come in.” – Fazz Deputy CEO and co-founder Tianwei Liu from this episode

The One-Two Combo of Regulatory Approval and Quality Product Defines Fintech Innovation

Challenge: Driving customer adoption for technologies like blockchain at the institutional level. 

Opportunity: Regulation is the first step to open up market segments and serves as a key differentiator. 

Regulation opens doors to previously inaccessible market segments (e.g., FIs and banks) but the product makes the first step. 

“It’s not something that can be done overnight, but getting these licenses and compliance helps to give you a stamp of approval. It is not enough, but it’s definitely more helpful to at least help education move along. It also means that institutions are able then to adopt this blockchain technology…Having a regulation compliance on a FinTech side, from a competitive advantage side of this, means that you can then serve a wider customer base that traditionally would either be fearful or unable to reach.” – Fazz Deputy CEO and co-founder Tianwei Liu from this episode

Rise of the truly omnichannel partner for ecommerce

Challenge: Brands going offline to online (or vice versa) and navigating the volatile nature of platforms like TikTok

Opportunity: Having the right partners to drive brand exposure, distribution, and manage logistics 

For example, Konvy has been developing its capabilities to support brands offline and on TikTok as well, becoming the leading player on the latter platform as well.

“And all the products we open [samples] for people to try, which is also a very new concept…the problem that we are trying to solve is that a lot of people want to buy new products on our platform, but they have never tried it before. And they’re scared to buy it. So we try to use our offline strategy to solve these problems…It is doing very well, and people love our concept.” – Konvy Deputy CEO and co-founder Qing Gui Huang from this episode

“So let’s say a product goes viral on TikTok, they are not sure that they can buy it from this video creator, but they know that Konvy’s TikTok shop is also selling these products. They will buy from Konvy’s TikTok shop, because Konvy provides quality products, quality service, and that’s very important now for the ecommerce world.” – Konvy Deputy CEO and co-founder Qing Gui Huang from this episode

Rise of the regional expansion partner for ecommerce

Challenge: Ecommerce brands looking to expand regionally

Opportunity: Right partners to support regional expansion as well

Having a strong brand is not enough to expand regionally. But that’s where Konvy comes in with their distribution capabilities that make it less risky for beauty brands to go overseas.

“Usually this initial investment is quite big. Because in the first few years, I would say it’s definitely a losing business for them. This also takes a lot of effort for them to build the team. At the same time, they have their backyard in Thailand already competing heavily…So a lot of the brands do not seek active expansion to other countries.” – Konvy Deputy CEO and co-founder Qing Gui Huang from this episode

Reckoning for the “fintech is everywhere” thesis

Challenge: Competition driving businesses to invest in their own financial services product set but costs to build and maintain this are high

Opportunity: Build up data flywheel and hire the right talent to develop these services in-house, or leverage open-finance partners.

There is a case for tech companies to build out their own financial services, and companies like Carro have leveraged this to great effect for profitability and growth, but it requires scale, relationship building (with banks), and long-term investment (e.g., raising debt). Open finance is another option.

“If you are a tech company that is going into financial services, the amount of money you need to spend, the reserve requirements you need, the regulatory costs associated with this. It’s no joke. And so what you thought was a pretty lean business can become a very cost-heavy business very quickly.” – Brankas CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer from this episode

Middle East opportunity for the right startups

Challenge: Tech platforms looking for new avenues of global and regional expansion

Opportunity: With mandates and frameworks coming straight from the top, banks in the Middle East are thus eager to learn from and partner with open finance platforms.

For example, in 2023, Brankas set up a small team and onboarded its first clients and partners in the region. 

“Brankas is contacted very frequently…by Middle East banks that have heard about Brankas saying, “Hey, we’re looking for a technology partner to help us build out our open finance capabilities. We heard about you because we saw this report or we heard about you on the Insignia podcast and we’re looking for some advice and maybe a technology solution to support our open finance roadmap because we have to do it…how do we, as the bank or the financial institution, build monetized commercial products on top of whatever we need to do for compliance?” – Brankas CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer from this episode

Governments building inroads into startup ecosystems to drive innovation bottom-up

Challenge: Navigating innovation in government

Opportunity: Building deeper inroads into startup ecosystems

“We had at that point of time worked quite well with various parts of the ecosystem from our big systems integrators from our universities and research institutes. But I think that we haven’t really quite cracked the code on how to work effectively with startups. We didn’t really have that many networks or inroads into the startup ecosystem. So I think one thing was to bring the epitome of risk-taking and courage and boldness in entrepreneurship and in innovation to the Singapore Civil Defence Force.” – IVA alum Leon Yip from this episode

Governments opening up to startups to upskill / upgrade personnel and systems. 

Challenge: Finding use cases, POC opportunities and commercial partners for deep tech startups

Opportunity: It goes both ways. It’s not just about deep tech solutions having potential to solve inefficiencies in public safety and security workflows. With the right POCs, This use case can also be an ideal testbed to ensure technologies are robust.

“I think that public safety and security as a seedbed and a test bed for deep tech also has value to the deep tech community…” – IVA alum Leon Yip from this episode

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