CEO and Founder of nexlabs
Ye Myat Min, CEO and Founder of nexlabs, is a creative thinker, a visionary and an entrepreneur. Since 17, he's been building digital products for organizations across SEA. In 2013, Ye Myat started nexlabs with a mission to build digital solutions for Myanmar organizations and to create economic opportunities for the people of Myanmar using technology. Ye Myat was also recognized as one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia in 2016. He also founded Better HR in 2019, empowering Myanmar organizations to manage their workforce better.
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Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
Myanmar’s startup ecosystem has been slowly, but steadily, growing since the country opened its doors back in 2013. Investors started looking at Myanmar due to it being “the last frontier” of the world. However, this has not made a breakout impact for the success of local startup system. For any startup ecosystem to succeed, you need entrepreneurs, talent, investment, and regulatory support.
There have been a number of high-profile investments made such as the US$30m investment into local ISP startup Frontiir by CDC UK. Ant Financial has also recently made its way into Myanmar by purchasing a stake in local fintech startup Wave Money for more than US$70m. However, appetite from local investors is still lacking. Many local investors are still focusing on brick-and-mortar businesses such as jewelry, food and beverage, retail, etc.
Notably, ecosystem builders are also playing a big part in building up Myanmar’s startup ecosystem. Phandeeyar’s Tech Accelerator was founded in 2016. Two years later, in 2018, we saw Seedstars making its first move in Myanmar. Phandeeyar is running 100+ events on an annual basis to promote and foster the local startup ecosystem. Due to such events, many young professionals are not only joining startups but also founding companies.
Whilst consumers and businesses were initially not receptive towards using technology solutions, COVID-19 had changed all of that in 3 months for good. Myanmar has one of the fastest internets in SEA with one of the highest smartphone adoption rates. Due to the longstanding closure of the country, technology and disruption are needed in all sectors.
Myanmar will most likely see its first truly regional startup in the next 3 years as local companies are developing the necessary infrastructure to scale across Southeast Asia. It is also likely that we will see Myanmar’s first unicorn – Wave Money.
Myanmar’s growth story has been about leapfrogging. It went from 2G to 4G overnight. Entrepreneurs can rethink traditional business challenges into leapfrogged solutions. Myanmar’s biggest challenges are in 3 sectors: Healthcare, Education, and Financial Services.
All 3 sectors are extremely underserved by both private and public enterprises. Anybody who can crack these 3 challenges shall have the opportunity to become a unicorn while contributing significantly to the livelihood of the people of Myanmar.
On the flip side, entrepreneurs must be willing to work against Myanmar’s challenges too. Finding skilled talent is difficult. It is rare to find talent who has “done it before” as part of scale-up teams.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
Myanmar’s overall business and corporate culture is a young one given that until the early 2010s, Myanmar did not have a lot of structured businesses. Most were family-run businesses. In addition, due to the fact that Myanmar was closed down for more than 60 years, the bold risk-taking mindset is typically not encouraged from a young age. Generally, people are more reserved and conservative.
Thus, many of the workforce in Myanmar today do not want to take any risks even though they may have the right skillset to start a company. Many skilled laborers that are trained outside of the country are returning back to run family businesses, however, they also run into challenges where the old ways of doing things and the new ways of doing things often collide.
But, not all hope is lost as the next generation of students in Myanmar are being shaped by new ways of thinking and are more globalized due to having access to the internet and information from a young age. They are increasingly challenging the status quo and getting more involved in the local startup ecosystem.
Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.
Cocoon Capital Myanmar (Singapore): An active, early-stage investor based in Singapore that does 6 new deals each year throughout Southeast Asia. (Source: Cocoon Capital)
EME (Yangon): Focuses on early-stage post-revenue startups in Myanmar and makes investments ranging from US$50-250k. (Source: EME)
Nest Tech (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam): Nest Tech is a venture capital firm that invests in and nurtures technology entrepreneurs at the seed and early growth stages, focusing on the fast growing markets of South East Asia. (Source: Nest Tech)
Seed Myanmar (Yangon): Seed Myanmar is a venture capital firm focused on early stage investments of technology start-ups in Myanmar. With two of its three investment committee members being founders of Myanmar technology companies themselves, Seed Myanmar brings together a team of experienced professionals with intimate knowledge of the Myanmar market and its unique challenges. (Source: Seed Myanmar)
Founder Institute Yangon (Yangon): Phandeeyar partners with Silicon Valley's Founder Institute to run a pre-accelerator program helping aspiring entrepreneurs make the leap from employee to startup founder. (Source: Phandeeyar)
One to Watch Myanmar (Yangon): One to Watch is an investment management and business support provider. OTW invests and provides business development support to SMEs focused mainly in agriculture and renewable energy sector, that are creating impact as well as profits. (Source: One to Watch)
Phandeeyar (Yangon): Offers an intensive 6-month program based at the Phandeeyar Accelerator offices in downtown Yangon. Provides startups with training, mentorship, introductions to investors and loads of free services. (Source: Phandeeyar)
Impact Hub Yangon (Yangon): Impact Hub Yangon is an innovation lab, a business Incubator, a social enterprise community center. (Source: Impact Hub Yangon)
Phandeeyar Coworking Space & Makerspace (Yangon): Phandeeyar offers coworking space as well as a dedicated makerspace with 3D printers, a CNC router, electronics equipment and lots of other hardware hacking tools. It also runs regular workshops, seminars and meetups to help Myanmar’s makers develop their design, prototyping and user testing skills. (Source: Phandeeyar)
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