September 29, 2021

It’s More Clear Than Ever: Startups Can Come From Anywhere

by Matt Cheng

World-renowned startup accelerator Y Combinator (YC for short) has always driven innovation in the startup ecosystem. Early September, YC launched their highly-anticipated Demo Day, an event that the global VC community always watched and follows. The moment the list of YC startups was released, my team and I eagerly jumped to get our hands on it, analyzing and piecing together what could be the most significant trends for tomorrow. ​​

Interestingly, nearly half of the YC teams from this year’s Demo Day are based outside North America, indicating that startups and investments are not just moving out of Silicon Valley but are becoming diffused across the world. Moreover, startups in emerging markets such as SE Asia and Africa are leveraging existing successful business models to make their own by localizing the products and services, accelerating innovation and industry change in multiples. ​​

Based on the teams from the latest Demo Day, I see four major areas that could experience tremendous change: tech, fintech, Medtech, and applications specific to a post-COVID era. In regards to tech, barriers to tech are rapidly shrinking. Among the selected YC teams, there is no shortage of applications of APIs, low-code/no-code, and developer tools that are making it easier to utilize technology. These tools, for example, can help engineers more efficiently and quickly develop products and services. They can even allow people with no tech backgrounds at all to create tech products, opening doors to new possibilities. This developing trend will soon become an integral part of every industry’s infrastructure and undoubtedly lead to more innovation.​​

Similarly, fintech innovations have been opening new doors to financial and wealth management. Some examples of these new fintech applications are helping investors obtain information more efficiently, lowering the barriers to financial knowledge for ordinary people, and even giving teenagers a headstart in building credit scores. The most interesting fintech YC team to me is Aqua, a startup that allows regular people to cash in on highly-coveted private equity investment returns. ​​

As far as Medtech and post-COVID era applications are concerned, it’s easy to imagine that more innovation will follow in the upcoming years. If there is one clear trend, it is that services are becoming increasingly refined. For example, apps are being built to provide self-help services for people with ADHD in the mental health space. And with many companies transitioning into a post-COVID world, startups are developing applications that aim to improve working environments for remote employees while also assisting companies with employee benefits, administrative management, recruitment, and HR. ​​

After this year’s Demo Day, I am in awe of how much has changed in a short time. Back in 2013, when I participated in YC for the first time, there were only 49 participating companies, all from the US. Today, there are over 370 teams that hail from all parts of the world, ushering in a new, golden era for the global startup ecosystem. I firmly believe that this is a turning point that all startup founders should pay attention to. Contrary to many people’s expectations, the global pandemic did not slow down global innovation but instead gave entrepreneurs a bigger stage to dance on. Going forward, here’s to a future where it’s never been easier to tackle problems and for founders to change the world with one innovation at a time. Now, founders, it’s time to make something and bring a fundamental impact to the world!

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