Startups as Keys to the Digital Economy: Building Strong Fundamentals for Startup Entrepreneurs in ASEAN and Australia

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2022, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to innovation and investment, digital economy, and regional mobility.

When talking about a dream career for today’s youth, entrepreneurship has to come first. Nowadays, young people around the world are interested in running their own businesses, most of whom are interested in “Startup” businesses, which focuses on utilising technology or innovation to create a unique product or service to solve a pain point in society. . According to a report by Startup Genome,7 out of the 10 largest companies in the world are also in the tech industry. 

In ASEAN, the Startup sector is growing rapidly, particularly in countries such asSingapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, which all have their unicorns (a billion-dollar valuation Startup). Such unicorns present opportunities for a brighter future for the young generation craving to be successful entrepreneurs. Likewise, Australia is also home to many successful Startups such as Go1, Pet Circle, and Canva, which have been creating jobs and contributing to the development of technology infrastructures and strengthening the digital economy day and day. 

“305.000.000” is the number of startups that are created annually in every corner of the world from the data of EarthWeb. From a glance, it may be a lot of numbers and gives the impression that the world is full of very smart businesses, however in reality only 10-20% of the startups that are established every year are successful and sustainable. This is just an average number from around the world, however when we zero in at developing countries, the survival rate of startups is even less due to various factors, such as the legal aspects that support it, the society that may not embrace and are not receptive to what the business has to offer, and the basic framework that can favor the growth and sustainability of startups including finance mobilisation, among others.. For example, in Laos, Emerging Markets Consulting found that the development of the private sector in Laos often faces three main obstacles: the policy of the state, the lack of resources and the skills gap of human resources. . 

To create a strong Startup is to create a strong infrastructure that supports entrepreneurs from the ground up. For instance, Singapore is a country that has the most unicorn Startups in Southeast Asia with the support of 72 Startup Accelerators and Startup Incubators are one of the reasons for their rapid growth in the digital economy. The accelerator and incubator are platforms that can provide the necessary assistance in order to support a startup from the ideation stage to the execution stage, support its growth process, as well as expedite its development to ensure its competitiveness in the industry. 

Additionally, the education system in the country should also integrate more business lessons in the curriculum to teach and prepare students for their lives after school. A learning center will also be a great example for supporting youths. These would have a verified curriculum for the studying of business, including practical workshops and connecting students to opportunities that would allow them to learn firsthand how to manage and create a business. The last suggestion is the regulation and law, which can be started with small supporting funding for idea-stage startups, low-interest rate loans for entrepreneurs, benefits for Startup entrepreneurs (tax-free, less process for the document), and digital literacy, to name a few.


While many ASEAN countries still face challenges in this regard, the success of Startup Accelerators and Startup Incubators in Australia presents an opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange between ASEAN and Australia youth. The cooperation between ASEAN and Australia can also be strengthened with the network of successful Startup entrepreneurs in Australia, as the concept of a Startup learning center can be conducted either in-person or online among the young generation and incubate them to be great leaders in the future and build a strong digital economy. 

The world is not for the one who waits, it is for the one who always runs forward into the vision and goal. Establishing a strong digital infrastructure might take time with the various challenges currently faced, but to start today is like planting a seed and waiting for a great result in the future; a worthy investment. A strong digital economy between ASEAN and Australia will be a strong network for trading, finance and technology that would benefit the people. After all, the brighter future is achieved by creating more leaders and initiators in the community today.

This article was written by Bounlieng Phanthapanya, edited by the Diplomacy Team, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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