As one of the few international conferences this year, the AsiaBerlin Summit 2020 is taking place on-site with a huge number of online attendees as well. On the first day of the Summit (21 September), the offline participants met and connected in person, on a beautiful location next to the Spree. But more importantly, the Summit this year had a massive online presence: some speakers joined us via conference calls and engaged with us behind screens from all over the world. Here are some highlights from Day 1 of the conference.
This new digital way of working and connecting was a well-discussed topic on the first day of the summit. A reflection of course, by the current series of world developments. “The initiative for this AsiaBerlin Summit is very timely”, is how Dr. Eric Schweitzer, President of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) opened the Summit. “The COVID 19 pandemic has shown us all how interdependent our economies are. German companies are well aware of the potential that lies in cooperation and partnership. Let us shape the future of German-Asian economic cooperation together!”
Ramona Pop, Berlin Mayor and Senator for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, emphasized about the relevance of Asian businesses for Berlin in her opening talk as well: “As a diverse, as a young, innovative and international city, with a growing and English-speaking startup ecosystem, Berlin is the strongest partner for Asia and the European Union, even more so since Brexit.”
In a FireSide Chat, Hiroaki Kageyama, president of the ASICS Venture Corporation, talks about his experiences working between Asia and Berlin. He sees similarities between Japan and Berlin, for example, that both have a strong focus on deep tech. He also sees significant European approaches that Japan could learn from: “The key difference is sustainability. We are a consumer company and we need to keep an eye on all the sustainability, German companies are already keen to accelerate this focus.”
Our first panel about the international cooperation of corporates and startups discussed the opportunities arising from the Covid-19 crisis. According to Cedrik Neike, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens, the virus turned out to be the most important CTO ever, as it forces us to rethink many structures. But for this innovation to really take place, open ecosystems are crucial: “In open ecosystems, corporations and startups can jointly develop new ideas and quickly turn them into reality.”
Thomas Saueressig, Member of the Executive Board of SAP, was 22 when he first traveled to Asia and keeps on being impressed with the pace in which things change on the continent. “They really embrace innovation, we could use more of that spirit here”, he tells. The AsiaBerlin Summit plays an important role here: “This summit is a perfect opportunity to foster exchange between entrepreneurs, investors, and corporates. It is all about learning from each other to jointly drive innovation and set new market trends.”
This year’s AsiaBerlin Summit has an important focus, concludes Rainer Seider, head of the unit for International Cooperation, Berlin Senate Department, and initiator of AsiaBerlin. In order to foster innovation, it is important to bring young companies together with larger corporations and governments in Asia. That provides a lot of opportunities for startups. “It’s not easy for startups to get access to that market. This is something where the AsiaBerlin Summit can play a huge role, also in the future years.”
The second half of the first AsiaBerlin Summit 2020-day kicked off with a panel on collaborations between governments and startups. Manori Unambuwe, ambassador of Sri Lanka in Germany, tells how her home country is prioritizing digitalization and that startups should be very much a part of that. That’s why the Sri Lankan government is inviting Berlin startups to have a look at its emerging market. “Its a beautiful stepping stone into the wider market in Asia”, she tells. “Small enough to work together personally. In a larger Asian country, that is much tougher.” Also, digital nomads would be very much welcome according to Unambuwe: “We have beautiful beaches here”, she smiles.
In a panel about science and startups, we spoke to Volker Hofmann, managing director of Humboldt-Innovation and they work with early-stage teams and companies. One thing they focus on is to strengthen international collaborations. “One focus program is called ‘Bridge to China”, where they can really decode the market there”, he tells. “It’s really the way to say: now you understand the market, then maybe years later you can make the decision to go there.”
In the panel on accelerators and startups, Vivek Kumar, launch manager at Entrepreneur First and cofounder of Excubator in Bangalore, tells the audience that accelerators have been hugely important to India’s startup scene. But the focus points have shifted. “In 2014, 2015, we saw that programs like mentorships and providing guidance, giving product integrating opportunities were popular. But as the ecosystem matured, right now what we see is a lot of startups looking for what kind of network access can the acceleration program provide.”
According to the closing keynote of Naren Shaam, CEO and Founder at Omio GmbH, three components are important if you want to be a startup founder: a vision you really believe in, persistence and humility. “The entrepreneurial journey is hard, but it’s one of the most satisfying things in the world. When I get in a flight and the person in front of me opens the Omio app– that’s the experience I do it for.” He also shared his experiences about starting up in Berlin as a founder and how eventually it paid off after initial challenges. “I would strongly recommend Berlin to startup founders. It is a strong ecosystem, you stand on the back of German infrastructure which is very strong, the country has a stable government and good healthcare for families.”
Register for Day 2 to attend more exciting panels and keynotes at AsiaBerlin Summit 2020. Here is the current list of speakers and here is the Summit program. Follow us on Linkedin and Twitter for live updates on AsiaBerlin Summit 2020