Start-ups

The next big businesses will focus on these two tech trends, says investor behind Alibaba and Grab

Jenny Lee, managing partner at GGV Capital, speaks during the Bloomberg Sooner Than You Think technology summit in Singapore, on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Want to come up with the next big thing? Look no further than mobile phones and 5G technology — the next generation of wireless internet connectivity.

That's according to investing icon Jenny Lee, who says the fast-evolving technologies will be central to the leading businesses of the future.

"I would say there are a couple of innings," Lee said when asked recently where she sees the next big start-up opportunities.

First, there are huge opportunities for businesses to embrace the rapid mobile adoption in growing markets like India, Southeast Asia and Latin America, Lee said at finance conference Money 2020 Asia in Singapore last month.

In India alone — a country of 1.3 billion people — the number of smartphone users is set to double to 829 million by 2022.

Meanwhile, in more technologically advanced countries like the U.S. and China, there is major scope for companies to capitalize on 5G, Lee noted.

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What is 5G?

"The mobile wave is not over," said Lee, whose was an early-stage backer of Asian tech titans Alibaba, Grab and Xiaomi, and has been placed among Forbes' top investors globally.

"The first wave where we saw mobile internet trends, new ideas, new start-ups hit through the U.S. and China — that's now happening in Southeast Asia, India and Latin America," Lee said. "I think that's where there's a lot that can be learned from different markets, from different models."

"Then, I think that when we look at the U.S. and China now, the next wave that we see is actually 5G," said Lee, who is a managing partner at Silicon Valley-headquartered GGV Capital.

'New disruption'

Already companies are embracing the burgeoning 5G technology, which promises ultra-high speeds and cost reductions.

But as it gets more widespread, it will be become the primary infrastructure on which all major new technologies are run, including mobile internet, autonomous vehicles and even smart cities.

"That's where we see the new disruption," said Lee.

"I think the U.S. and China likely will lead that, while Southeast Asia, India (will) get onto the mobile wave and then ultimately, this becomes a global trend."

Opportunities in Asia

While less developed markets in Southeast Asia and India will likely take longer to catch up with major tech hubs like the U.S. and China, Lee also noted that she believes Asia offers the greatest scope for new business opportunities over the next decade.

"We've seen the growth in the U.S., we've seen the growth in China, we feel that the next 5-10 years growth is going to be Asia," Lee said, encouraging entrepreneurs to look to the region's fast-growing economies.

"If you're a start-up, it's a good time to think about what start-up you're trying to do in Asia," said Lee, who said she anticipates a boost to investment in the region over the coming years.

"Because it is a nascent market, it is important to think about competitive advantage. You're early: That means if you build an advantage today, that advantage is going to grow multiple-fold over the next few years," said Lee.

Don't miss: How to know when to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur

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