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Most promising startup ecosystems in the APAC region

Singapore secures its position as the top Asian country with the most promising startup ecosystem, rising one spot to claim sixth place globally.

Women's Tabloid News Desk
Women's Tabloid News Desk

Asia continues to shine as a hotspot for startups, offering a plethora of opportunities for innovation, growth, and investment. The Global Startup Ecosystem Index by StartupBlink for 2023 provides valuable insights into the top startup ecosystems across Asia, shedding light on the dynamic nature of the region’s entrepreneurial scene. Let’s delve into the rankings and explore what makes these countries and cities stand out.

Singapore: Cementing Its Position

Singapore, often referred to as the “Lion City,” solidified its status as a startup powerhouse by ascending to the sixth spot globally. Within the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, Australia also demonstrated its startup prowess, securing the ninth position worldwide, despite slipping one place compared to the previous year.

The rankings in the report are based on three key factors: quantity, quality, and business environment. These factors collectively determine the overall score for each ecosystem. Startups, in this context, are defined as businesses that leverage innovative, technology-enabled solutions with scalability potential.

Singapore’s climb in the global rankings reflects its robust startup ecosystem. Notably, the city-state boasts a favorable business environment, earning the fourth spot in this category. Furthermore, it shines in various sectors, including fintech, ecommerce & retail, edtech, and hardware & IoT. Singapore’s appeal as an incorporation destination for Asian startups is underpinned by its financial stability, pro-business policies, and tax incentives. However, high real estate costs and risk aversion among the local population present ongoing challenges.

India: The South Asian Giant

In South Asia, India emerges as the undisputed leader, securing the first position with a score nearly 15 times higher than its closest rival, Pakistan. Indian cities dominate the top eight spots in South Asia and are well-represented globally. With 38 cities in the global top 1,000, including five in the top 100 and nine in the top 300, India’s startup landscape is thriving. The country’s startup growth is largely driven by its vast domestic market and a thriving IT industry.

Yet, India faces its share of challenges. The scarcity of high-paying jobs and infrastructure issues contribute to a phenomenon known as “brain drain,” where entrepreneurial talent seeks opportunities abroad. Addressing these challenges while fostering digital infrastructure growth is crucial for India’s startup ecosystem.

Indonesia: Rising Star in Southeast Asia

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is on the rise, climbing three spots to rank 29th globally and joining the top 30 cities for the first time. In Southeast Asia, it secures the second spot, trailing only behind Singapore. Jakarta’s strength in the ecommerce & retail industry is evident as it ranks 19th globally. Indonesia benefits from a large market size, a young, tech-savvy workforce, and accelerated digital infrastructure growth due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaysia: A Hidden Gem

Malaysia holds its ground as the eighth-best startup ecosystem in Asia. Kuala Lumpur, the capital and primary startup hub, improved its global ranking to 87th. It excels in edtech, ranking 27th worldwide. Malaysia’s strategic location, combined with its talent pool, positive entrepreneurial mindset, and supportive government policies, positions it as a strong contender in the Asian startup landscape.

Thailand: A Comeback Story

After a slight setback last year, Thailand rebounds by climbing one spot to rank 52nd globally. In Southeast Asia, it retains its position as the fourth-best ecosystem, ahead of Vietnam. Bangkok maintains a strong presence in the transportation industry, ranking 43rd globally. Thailand’s commitment to developing its startup ecosystem, driven by the recognition of its importance in economic growth, is evident. While improvements in the linkage of foreign and local talent are needed, Thailand’s innovative visa programs and support for expats contribute to its appeal.

Vietnam: Nurturing Potential

Vietnam remains the fifth-ranked ecosystem in Southeast Asia, with both its cities making notable strides. Ho Chi Minh City excels in fintech (53rd globally), while Hanoi stands out in edtech (72nd globally). Vietnam’s burgeoning startup scene holds immense potential, driven by its substantial market size. To become a regional and global hub, Vietnam must harness technological innovation and integrate it into traditional manufacturing processes.

Philippines: Bridging the Gap

The Philippines maintains its sixth position in Southeast Asia, closing the gap with Vietnam. Manila leads the country’s startup ecosystem, ranking among the top 50 cities globally for fintech. The Philippines boasts an English-speaking workforce, with many already working remotely for international startups. However, infrastructural challenges and slow regulatory support hinder the country’s full potential.

Full rankings

The full list of the 15 most promising startup ecosystems in the APAC region is as follows:

  1. Singapore – 6th globally
  2. Australia – 9th globally
  3. China – 12th globally
  4. Japan – 18th globally
  5. South Korea – 20th globally
  6. India – 21st globally
  7. Taiwan – 24th globally
  8. New Zealand – 31st globally
  9. Indonesia – 41st globally
  10. Malaysia – 43rd globally
  11. Thailand – 52nd globally
  12. Vietnam – 58th globally
  13. Philippines – 59th globally
  14. Kazakhstan – 73rd globally
  15. Pakistan – 76th globally

Asia’s startup ecosystems continue to evolve and show promise. Singapore and Australia maintain their global presence, while India stands out in South Asia. Rising stars like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines contribute to the region’s dynamic entrepreneurial landscape. These rankings not only highlight the strengths of each ecosystem but also underscore the challenges that need to be addressed to foster sustained growth and innovation in the Asian startup scene.

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