Southeast Asia will drive the next wave of disruptive tech growth in the next decade. Key to this growth is the youthful population that will become tomorrow’s workforce, consumers and entrepreneurs. Compared to other regions, individuals between the ages of 15 and 35 years old are still on the rise in countries in the region especially in Vietnam and Indonesia. This group are likely to be the most tech savvy and early tech adopters, said a 2023 Southeast Asia Internet report from growth equity company Asia Partners. Recently released, the report provides in-depth insights on Southeast Asian economies, and demographic and talent landscapes. In a YouTube video explaining the report, Asia Partners’ co-founder and managing partner of Nicholas Nash said: “The 15-year-old to 35-year-old age band is very important for tech product adoption and a leading indicator of the size of the future workforce.” Even as the tech industry in SEA like other regions struggle with getting tech talent, the report also highlights the availability of experienced startup executives in the region. There is the Zalora “mafia”, a group of former employees who have since founded or joined other startups. Zalora is one of the earliest startups founded and based in Singapore. Members of the Zalora mafia include startup founders like Henry Chan and Joel Leong of hopBack, Dione Song of Love Bonito, Chris Feng of Shopee, Yen Vu of Be Group and Magnus Grimeland of Antler.
(Source: Asia Partners Internet Report 2023, Southeast Asia’s Moment, Part IV: Talent Flows in SE Asia’s Innovation Ecosystem on YouTube)
The Asia Partners’ report also highlighted three other sources of talent. The Talent Feeders are companies that provide a constant supply of qualified talent to other sectors. They include the Big Four namely Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PWC; the telecom companies, Singtel and Telecom Indonesia; and IT service providers such as Accenture and IBM. Companies that both attract and lose talent make up the second source. They include the management consulting firms like Bain, Boston Consulting and McKinsey; and the large semiconductor firms such as Intel and GlobalFoundries.  Talent Magnets make up the third source which are companies that mainly attract talent, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft from the US; Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent from China and SEA’s second-generation companies like Carsome, RedDoorz and Shopback.  Another noteworthy insight on talent is the “ sea turtles”, a term originally used to describe Chinese nationals who have returned to mainland China after having studied abroad. The sea turtles from Southeast Asia are likely to graduate from the US and Australian universities. Asia Partners is optimistic that these sea turtles will create exciting startups and disruptive technologies. Grace Chng is Director of Verticus Consultants and Technology Writer and Author Chan Yiu Lin also contributed to this story.