Cognity Stack vol.1: [SEA vs. SV] Corporate Cultural Differences

SEA: "give me a salary!" SV: "give me equity!" -> do you agree?

Our team recently created this breakdown of cultural differences amongst a few SEA emerging markets, Silicon Valley & Wall Street (inspired by our very own Earl Valencia's blog).

Notice the patterns in SEA and stark difference with Silicon Valley?

💼 Value vs. Services

Google Dictionary (thanks Google!) defines the service sector as "a business that does work for a customer, but is not involved in manufacturing."

The service & outsourcing industry focus in SEA is passive - offering already existing value to customers.

In contrast, Silicon Valley wants to create value, with technology as the medium.

We see this difference in respected professions as well. Silicon Valley respects builders, while SEA respects the services of doctors and lawyers, which brings us to...

💊Risk Averse vs. Risk Tolerant

What's the #1 thing Asian parents will their kids to study? Medicine.

What's the #2 thing? Law.

The respected professions in Asia are no surprise.

In SEA, tech jobs are obscure and are considered "high-risk." Software engineering jobs are categorized under "IT". Design equals graphic design, not UX or product design. My friends and parents still have no clue what I do as a product manager ("So are you a manager or what?").

Similarly, while SEA college grads are excited about large tech companies, startups are seen as high risk and don't give credibility like a big company name will.

Lastly, predictable salaries > equity/stock options drawing from a lack of understanding equity upside and the need for a surer way of receiving a regular income. SEA emerging markets just isn't as rich, and every peso or dong or rupiah counts.

👪 Weight of a Name

Whenever I made new friends growing up, my dad asked "What's their last name?" and then followed-up with "Ah! Is their father/mother [insert name of parent], the owner of [insert prominent company here]?"

In SEA, families and kin relationships feed into business outcomes. The next CEO will most likely be the current CEO's kid.

Sure this illustrates heartwarming care for family but it makes it difficult for talented people who don't already have a prominent family names or relationships with powerful people to make names for themselves.

🚀 What will it take for SEA → SV?

A question I've been pondering: What will it take for Southeast Asia to become a tech ecosystem like Silicon Valley?

My answer: a cultural shift - from service to value, from low to high risk, and from last names to actual skill and talent.

What's yours?


✨ Don’t miss out:

  • Our dear friend Dianna Yau (PM @ Facebook) has an awesome emerging markets startup. Check it out on a podcast platform near you (or click here)