Southeast Asian start-ups need core strategies to survive

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Start-up companies in Southeast Asia should recognize unique talents as they scurry to gain momentum in a rough-and-tumble world of competition, and overcome obstacles from logistics and timing to localization, entrepreneurs told CNBC.

Entrepreneurs need to know their core strengths and "it has to be something that only they can be good at," said Maximilian Bittner, CEO of e-commerce firm Lazada, majority owned by China's Alibaba Group Holding after a $1 billion investment in April.

Bittner, speaking at a CNBC Exchange panel discussion in Jakarta, said that for the Southeast Asian e-commerce marketplace, getting the logistics right was a key part of its success.

For example in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, Lazada had to build a logistics network that could cater to the needs of the market.

Another disruptive start-up in the region shared that getting the right mix of personalization was vital.

"We started by wanting to become the Netflix of Asia, but then we learned that we had to adjust greatly to make it compatible with each of the target Asian markets," said David Goldstein, head of Asia at iFlix and CNBC Exchange panellist.

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"We had to be highly localized with local payment capabilities, subtitles, and the key is local content for each market," Goldstein told CNBC.

But succeeding in building up core strengths might not be enough to stay relevant, especially with new and disruptive businesses constantly popping up.

"Disruption has taken on a new meaning today compared to back in the 1990s," said Patrick Teng, founder, chief dealer and executive chairman of Six Capital, at the panel discussion.

In the past, companies would have to invent something, whereas today, successful companies are those who meet a need at just the right time, Teng said.

Lazada's Bittner shared that disruption in the competitive e-commerce space is something he has concerns about.

"I'm constantly in a state of massive paranoia of things changing, but you need to have a finger on the pulse and know where the latest trends are going," Bittner said.

"You have to innovate and be good constantly, so you don't get caught off guard, but also build a moat around the few things you're good at," he added.

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