The digital landscape of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is entering an exciting time with significant growth predicted across major sectors.

The ten member states of ASEAN – Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Brunei – have a combined population of over 600 million. This fertile marketplace is ripe for investment and digital development.

eCommerce revenue projections in the region are estimated to reach as high as USD $109.60 billion by the end of 2023 with annual growth rates of 11.43%.

The role of venture capital in fueling Southeast Asia’s startup and SME growth

However, all tech startups will face challenges, and building trust in the market is essential to long-term success. This is why trust indicators play a crucial role in attracting investment, collaboration, and paying customers.

The role of tech startups in building trust

Making an impact in the digital market undoubtedly requires companies to make use of state-of-the-art technology and the ability to embrace new developments will help with growth. However, trust is a human emotion, and losing sight of the human element in any business relationship can be detrimental.

Northspyre CEO and Forbes Council member William Sankey spoke of the danger startups face when dealing with budget restraints. The temptation to back technology and forgo the time and effort it takes to cultivate strong relationships with clients can result in businesses missing out on valuable support and loyalty.

This focus has seen the New York-based business that was founded in 2017 raise Series A funding of $7.5 million in 2020 and Series B funding of £25 million in 2022.

A focus on customer relationships and investing in SOC 2 Type II Compliance to ensure the protection of customer data helped to solidify their position.

ASEAN digital startups will look at case studies like this as a template for success and a way to build solid foundations that ensure growth is possible.

Indicators of Trustworthy Platforms in Different Sectors

Startups must find a healthy balance between the tech they invest in and the time spent on building relationships with stakeholders and their target market. 

Choosing the best tech stacks in Southeast Asia will be determined by a range of different factors including the sector, budget, market, integration with existing systems, potential for scalability, and security.


Online gambling in Southeast Asia continues to grow in popularity and revenue is expected to top USD 1 billion by the end of this year. Because of this, there are a lot of online casinos and sportsbooks competing for customers.

This can make it challenging for people to find the most trustworthy websites. However, there are many indicators that help customers in Southeast Asia to choose a reliable site for betting. 

Online security is a key factor in building trust for betting sites and ensuring the site uses SSL-encrypted connections to secure customer data is key.

Individual countries will typically regulate in-person and online betting. For example, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) regulates iGaming in the Philippines.

Online betting operators should also provide their customers with a fair and honest chance of winning. Audits carried out by a third party can help betting sites prove to potential customers that their operations are fair.


The convenience of buying online has seen e-commerce in the Southeast Asian market rise rapidly with sales of almost USD 160 billion expected for 2023. Projected annual growth rates of 12% until 2027 ensure there is plenty of room in the market for startups.

Investing in the latest software will improve the user experience and result in a better conversion rate. A strong customer service team is also needed to handle potential complaints and problems.

With social media and online review sites giving customers a voice, how startups handle negative experiences will determine the reputation they get and the trust levels of potential customers.

Clear and open dialogue with customers is also beneficial with detailed tracking of deliveries helping people keep up to date with their orders.


Fintech is the term used to describe technology that improves and automates financial services. Major banks have dedicated apps that allow users to safely and securely manage their finances via mobile devices.

Startups in Southeast Asia are being boosted by the increased use of mobile devices and the easier internet access they provide. This helps people with all of their financial needs from online payments to trading digital currencies.

Singapore’s Jenfi is an example of one such startup that saw a gap in the market and launched a revenue-based financing solution for businesses in the region.

Jenfi provides customers with a detailed dashboard that provides greater project visibility. They also highlight the importance of using state-of-the-art technology and best practices to ensure customer data is secure.

Digital healthcare

The digital healthcare industry in Southeast Asia grew as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with remote monitoring, telemedicine, and electronic record storage streamlining local and national health services.

This has been used to improve efficiency and new apps and platforms have benefitted tremendously.

The sensitive nature of digital healthcare means that privacy and security are at the forefront of the technology being used. Private, encrypted connections and safe storage of personal data.

The regulation of digital health services in ASEAN countries ensures data privacy is a priority. Updated regulations including the Regulatory Guideline for Telehealth Products in Singapore and Guideline on Telemedicine and Online Clinics in Thailand are two examples of how the industry has seen changes being made to healthcare regulations.


Growth in online education in Southeast Asia is predicted in 2023 and beyond as investment into startups that offer higher education and mobile training programs increases.

Links with recognised education bodies in the relevant ASEAN countries help users select the most respected courses. The status of the award on completion of education will determine its value. Approved distance learning providers can guarantee recognition in specific countries.

In Malaysia, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) covers the recognition of overseas qualifications. Whereas Singapore leaves the recognition of qualifications to the discretion of higher education institutions or employers.

Potential challenges for Southeast Asia’s digital services

As the digitalisation of different industries and sectors grows across Southeast Asia, the potential for regulations to change among ASEAN countries could impact some businesses that are already operating.

The ability to integrate new technology and the potential for scalability will always be a thought for new startups, but the ability to withstand regulatory changes could cause issues.

Regulatory compliance can be challenging for any business and governments could potentially make changes that prohibit or limit data flows across borders, demand disclosure of algorithms and source code, mandate the storage of local data, and set out a framework for data privacy and cybersecurity. 

Blockchain technology, AI, and big data analytics can offer solutions that allow the flow of large volumes of data, automate processes, and provide a shared public ledger that can ensure visibility and accountability.