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Book Review: Startup Asia

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China is now the second largest venture market. India is third. Vietnam is quickly expanding. Now more than ever, rather than starting an entrepreneurship in the West, the newest generation of entrepreneurs are looking to the East. Many of the same venture investors that formed the original Silicon Valley are repeating these successful enterprises in Asia. Startup Asia: Top Strategies for Cashing in on Asia's Innovation Boom tells the dramatic story of how business start-ups have developed and boomed in Asia.

The author, Rebecca Fannin, a Forbes contributor, started covering this in its early days, got to know many of the key players, and has interviewed many of them. In addition to her interviews with and profiles of Asia entrepreneurs, she describes the key trends along the way in what is one of the most noteworthy parts of the globalization of entrepreneurship.

How did this change in entrepreneurial thinking begin? The first phase was the "returnees. " Those originally from China and India got top degrees in the West, worked for top-tier banking and technology firms, then returned home to use this experience and networks to create companies. Many of these new companies are termed "clones"—local copies of successful US Internet businesses. The next step was that the "locals" began to do start-ups. Then US venture capital companies moved in. Local networks, venture firms, and technology communities followed.

The biggest business startup country is China, although India is strong in research and development and mobile communications. Fannin notes that India has "the promise to close the gap with China but is no match yet.” Vietnam is on the rise and has a lot of startup activity, but is described as "just like China, only 25 years ago.”

The strength of this book is the author's "on-the-ground" knowledge, which comes from years of trips, conferences, and meetings. Fannin spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Peking, which has a large group of continual visiting professors from around the world, to a far greater extent than any American university.

One thing missing from this book is description of start-up failure, a common and instructive part of entrepreneurship. The majority of the book describes success. The book does have "Strategies, " key points of how the startups achieved success. These “Strategies" are brief summaries, rather than in-depth case studies.

As one reads Startup Asia, one gets the sense of the intense energy and vast scope of what is occurring. At times it is a combination of speculative bubble, and a major new phenomenon that will attract the attention of financial professionals far into the future.

–Bill Hayes


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