Event Details

In 2018 there was an unprecedented influx of venture capital and private equity funds in tech start-ups in South-east Asia. Although since 2019 some of this euphoria in tech investment started to ebb, South-east Asia continues to remain a promising start-up hub. This is in part because of the potential growth in the region's collective market size but also because its governments are eager to support tech innovation.

The opportunities are certainly exciting across an almost limitless range of sectors – from those looking to tap into the region's expanding middle-class consumer base (such as e-commerce and entertainment) to others looking to bring about a digital transformation in traditional sectors (healthcare, property, logistics and education).

Meanwhile, covid-19 has quite dramatically speeded up shifts in mass behaviour towards digital platforms, solutions and services. New patterns of demand and preferences are crystallising quickly, many in favour of digital markets. Many of these behaviours will stick after the pandemic subsides. Businesses which ride high on these digital trends, and harness data-driven technologies to create better experiences for their customers in a competitive marketplace, are likely to be far better positioned for the brave new world.

As South-east Asia's young, tech-savvy populations increasingly look to the internet to fulfil their needs, digitally native companies are winning a larger space in their hearts and wallets. Some of this has come at the expense of the established incumbents.

How has the rise of tech start-ups and unicorns disrupted markets and monopolies in the region? How should unicorns be regulated? Will unicorns play a leading role in driving sustainable economic growth and prosperity in South-east Asia? What does this all mean for traditional business?

Join us as we discuss these themes with a panel of business leaders, including Lien Choong Luen, General Manager, GOJEK Singapore; Joe Dische, CFO, PropertyGuru; Michele Ferrario, Co-Founder and CEO, StashAway; Natalie Black, Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, UK Department for International Trade; and Muhammad Azmi Zulkifli, CEO, InvestKL.

Please note that this event is limited to senior-level executives and per invitation only. If you are not an existing member of The Economist Corporate Network, but would like to learn how you can attend our events, please send an email to ecn_sea@economist.com.


8:30 AM - 8:50 AM
Introduction and brief presentation
9:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Discussion and Q&A


  • Choong Luen Lien (General Manager at GOJEK Singapore)

    Choong Luen Lien

    General Manager at GOJEK Singapore

    Lien Choong Luen is helping to lead the international expansion for GOJEK as its Singapore GM.

    Prior to this, he spent several years at McKinsey and Co. working with major technology, healthcare and consumer companies across Greater China. Subsequently, as the South-east Asia head for the McKinsey Centre for Government, he served regional public sector clients; in particular, he worked with SPRING Singapore helping local SMEs accelerate their internationalisation, productivity and digitisation efforts. He maintained the focus on start-up innovation while at the Singapore National Research Foundation.

    Mr Lien started his career in the Singapore Armed Forces as a Special Forces officer. He served in East Timor as a UN Peace-keeper and also trained with the US Rangers, US Marines and various South-East Asian Special Forces. In the SAF, he led units up to battalion size and is currently serving as a reservist officer.

    Mr Lien studied mathematics in UC Berkeley and Cambridge University under the SAF Overseas Scholarship, and also graduated as the top student in Strategic and Defence Studies from the University of Malaya. He holds an MBA with Distinction from the London Business School.

    He previously served as the President of the Berkeley club of Singapore and is currently on the committee for the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore. A keen sportsman, he has summited Mount Everest and K2, skied to the North Pole, and run ultramarathons in the Amazon jungle and Gobi Desert, and served on the Singapore Sporting Culture Committee.

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  • Joe Dische (Chief Financial Officer at PropertyGuru Limited)

    Joe Dische

    Chief Financial Officer at PropertyGuru Limited

    Joe leads the finance, strategy and corporate functions across the PropertyGuru Group. He is responsible for achieving the balance between delivering ambitious growth and the highest possible standards of governance and control. He has led successful fundraising and M&A activity during his tenure as the company has delivered strong organic revenue growth and become operating EBITDA profitable.

    Joe brings to PropertyGuru over two decades of global financial experience across listed and private companies in the online, media and telecommunication industries as an Executive and Board member.

    Prior to joining PropertyGuru, Joe was CFO at ASX-listed iCar Asia Limited that operate online automotive portals in SE Asia, and he was responsible for leading finance and operations. iCar successfully executed on major M&A during his tenure and raised circa $100m to fund growth. Previously, Joe spent 6 years at Vodafone Hutchison Australia where he was financial controller and began his career at KPMG in London.

    Joe holds a bachelor of biology at the University of Nottingham, is a qualified accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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  • Michele Ferrario (Co-Founder and CEO of StashAway)

    Michele Ferrario

    Co-Founder and CEO of StashAway

    Michele is the former CEO of Zalora Group and the co-founder of Rocket Internet in Italy and Pakistan. Prior to that, he worked as investment manager at Synergo and as engagement manager at McKinsey. He earned his MBA at Columbia Business School and his bachelor of science in finance at Bocconi University in Italy. Michele has been invited by Singapore’s Minister of Finance to be a member of the Committee for the Future of the Economy.

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  • Natalie Black (Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner, Asia Pacific at Department for International Trade, British High Commission, Singapore)

    Natalie Black

    Her Majesty's Trade Commissioner, Asia Pacific at Department for International Trade, British High Commission, Singapore

    Natalie Black is Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for Asia Pacific, covering North-east Asia, South-east Asia and Australasia.

    Previously, Natalie was the deputy head of the Number 10 Policy Unit where she championed the UK’s tech sector and developed the new modern industrial strategy. In addition to this role, Natalie held the post of director of the internet harms unit where she coordinated efforts to tackle the challenges of the internet including terrorist use and online safety. Her first role in the civil service was deputy director and then director of the office of cyber security in the cabinet office where she oversaw the National Cyber Security Strategy and the National Cyber Security Programme.

    Before joining the civil service, Natalie was the chief of staff for security at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, London2012, and a management consultant.

    Natalie is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Harvard Kennedy School, where she was a Fulbright scholar.

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  • Muhammad Azmi Zulkifli (CEO of InvestKL)

    Muhammad Azmi Zulkifli

    CEO of InvestKL

    Muhammad Azmi Zulkifli is the CEO of InvestKL. In this role he leads the teams to identify, facilitate, and develop solutions for MNCs to locate their high value regional hubs in Greater KL and Malaysia. The focus sectors include oil & gas, healthcare, FMCG, business and financial services. To date, the InvestKL team led by Azmi has successfully brought in more than 90 MNCs to set up regional headquarters or hubs within Greater KL.

    He joined InvestKL in 2012 as director of investor relations for the European region.

    Prior to InvestKL, Azmi has over 16 years’ experience in leadership and management positions spanning commercial business, business transformation and operations with MISC Berhad, a subsidiary of Petronas. He participated in MISC’s business transformation initiatives and was part of a leadership team to re-engineer, develop and commission a global ICT system throughout MISC offices globally.

    Azmi holds a bachelor of science in business administration (marketing) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA.

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  • Pamela Qiu (Director, South-east Asia of Economist Corporate Network)

    Pamela Qiu

    Director, South-east Asia of Economist Corporate Network

    Pamela Qiu is the Network Director of the South-east Asia chapter of The Economist Corporate Network. She advises multinational corporations on the latest economic, political and market developments affecting business in the Asia Pacific region. She regularly chairs Economist events and roundtables, and delivers custom briefings to senior business executives. She joined The Economist in June 2011.

    Prior to joining The Economist Group, Pamela worked as a policy analyst and associate at the Singapore Ministry of Finance, where she worked on policies to tackle socio-economic problems such as inequality and unemployment. She also worked on policies that were featured in the Singapore Budget. From 2009 to 2011, she was a researcher for the Center for Public Economics at the Civil Service College, the Singapore government’s core institution for public policy and economics research. Her research areas included the role of government in markets, public private partnerships, privatisation, fiscal policy, and behavioural economics. From 2004 to 2006, Pamela also worked as a market analyst with Prudential Health Insurance, based in London.

    Pamela holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in development studies, both from the London School of Economics.

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