While Indonesia’s tech ecosystem already boasts of four unicorns — Go-Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak — there are several new entrants well on their way toward disrupting their respective industries. It’s worth taking a closer look at them because they may foreshadow of regional and even international business trends, given Indonesia’s primacy as a tech player in Southeast Asia.

Go-Jek, for example, was founded in 2010, auguring the competition in mobility that continues to rage on in the region until the present day. Their market entrance occurred a full two years before Grab’s founding in 2012, then still known as taxi-hailing company by the name of My Teksi and GrabTaxi – as well EasyTaxi’s foray in 2013, a Rocket Internet-backed platform that would eventually leave in defeat just three years later.

In short, the industries that will define Southeast Asia often get started or compete first in Indonesia, and with the government doing its role to close the series B gap, this trend is poised to continue only further. Founders throughout the region should look to the island nation as much as they do their own market: Indonesia may just give them a preview of the road that lies ahead.

1. The rise of specialized content marketplaces

If content is king, there will be a war for the throne in the next few years. With a growing audience of digital natives and a rising smartphone penetration, more publishers, platforms, and media outlets will arise in Southeast Asia. Indonesia’s GetCraft wants to be the main pipeline for all this content production.

On GetCraft, brands and agencies can avail of any of their content needs, from writers and photographers to designers and influencers. As of this March, the company has assembled a pool of 4,000 total content creators, and already maintains operations across the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

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GetCraft augurs the increasing specialisation of marketplaces in Southeast Asia. If brands were once content with broad horizontal platforms like Upwork, they are now looking for more niche marketplaces, where the creators are pre-vetted, reviewing relevant work is easier, and the providers have more experience with content marketing, thought leadership, and everything in between. When content production matures, in short, so, too does the content platform.

2. The blockchain goes mainstream

Pundi X is one of the most well-funded tech companies in Southeast Asia, a feat achieved by CEO Zac Cheah leading a public token sale that raised $35 million earlier this year. This kind of capital is essential as Pundi X is going after a big market: retail point-of-sales. They want to make transacting with cryptocurrency as easy as “buying a bottled water.”

The company has created the Pundi X POS, a blockchain-based, point-of-sale device that can sell or accept payment in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and NPXS through either fiat money, a mobile wallet, or a Pundi X Pass card. The Pundi X POS was launched this July at FAMA Group restaurants in Hong Kong – SUPAFOOD, Locofama, Sohofama, and the Hive Cafe – and coincided with a promotion at RISE where ambassadors gave away topped up Pundi X Pass cards to some attendees.

The roll-out of the Pundi X POS was a significant one for both the company and the industry. The company will become the first in Southeast Asia to give people a wide store network where they can transact in cryptocurrency, potentially helping bring these digital currencies into wide usage and circulation. The industry will then benefit from Pundi’s success: Other founders will see the potential of blockchain-based products not just for niche segments, but for mainstream consumers in Southeast Asia.

3. The on-demand economy comes to car owners

With the attention that ride-hailing gets across Southeast Asia, you might assume that the vast majority of people are moving away from car ownership and participating exclusively in the sharing economy. This transformation, of course, is not happening, at least not anytime in the immediate future.

For all the popularity of ride-hailing platforms, people still like their cars. And now companies like Indonesia’s Montir wants to cater to them. The startup is both a service provider and a retailer – through its web or mobile app, users can avail of automotive service or even car parts.

Montir recently raised an undisclosed Series A from East Ventures, which will serve the company well in its battle with Go-Jek’s own Go-Auto, which offers similar services. That both startups and unicorns are going after this space is telling – on-demand services that target car owners could be as big a sector as ride-hailing. The logic here is simple: If people like their cars, they like taking care of them even more.

All founders in Southeast Asia must acknowledge Indonesia’s market leadership in Southeast Asia and look to it for inspiration: What industries are they springing up next?


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