Tech Entrepreneurs Find an Oasis in Startup-Parched Myanmar
On a recent evening, a group of aspiring young tech entrepreneurs packed a room in downtown Yangon to learn how to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists. The venue, Phandeeyar, means “creation place” in Burmese, a lofty goal captured in its full title, Myanmar Innovation Lab.
Phandeeyar’s trailblazing aim is to use technology to improve people’s daily lives in Myanmar, still among Asia’s poorest countries. Its scope ranges from basic fintech services such as mobile money transfers to more “out of the box” innovations, explains David Madden, Phandeeyar’s Australian founder and chief executive.
“Fintech is very important for Myanmar. It’s potentially a great example of the ‘digital leapfrog,'” he told the Nikkei Asian Review, referring to the country’s recent and rapid adoption of smartphone technology. “It’s an amazing story,” Madden enthused. As a late arrival to Asia’s “tech revolution,” Myanmar is perfectly positioned to take shortcuts while learning from other’s mistakes, he added.
“It’s massively unbanked — a big country with a geographically dispersed population. Financial services are critical to development, but if we’re waiting for banks to build branches everywhere then we’ll be waiting a long time,” he noted.