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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The key to innovation in APAC’s travel startup scene? Empowering female founders

Asia’s startup scene is lauded as one of the most vibrant and fast-growing in the world. And rightly so: In Southeast Asia alone, born-and-bred startups such as Grab, GoJek, Tokopedia and Traveloka have enjoyed meteoric success in the past decade.

With business models that are tailor-made to solve unique problems within their respective markets, these startups epitomize the ingenuity and potential in the region – think of how GoJek hit a $10 billion valuation within a decade, by adding structure to Jakarta’s notorious transport ecosystem.

Yet for all the achievements of Asia’s startups, one problem remains: Female leaders are still woefully underrepresented in the region. Only one of the unicorns born out of Southeast Asia over the past decade, for instance, has a female founder – Tan Hooi Ling, co-founder of Grab.

This mirrors a worrying global trend. In 2018, it was estimated that globally there were only seven female entrepreneurs for every 10 male founders.

Gender politics aside, the lack of female leadership in APAC’s startup scene could be significantly hindering the region’s potential for innovation – and its long-term success.

The business case for gender equality

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Ultimately, having diverse teams means a wider range of ideas, and different approaches to problem-solving.

And with females making up approximately half of Asia’s population, the lack of females in the startup world could possibly stifle innovation.

Within the travel industry, the need for balanced representation is arguably even more important, given 83% of all travel decisions are made by women – something that drives our talent and acquisitions strategy at Amadeus, too.

Shifting the dial

To make real progress in APAC, change is clearly needed at all levels of the startup ecosystem: the investors, the community and the individuals themselves.

Support from investors and corporations will be fundamental. While we need to encourage more women to start companies, the only way to close the gender fundraising gap is to invest in them.

Ultimately, funding breeds innovation – it’s what gives most startups the ability to compete.

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