At Rest of World, we’re keen to meet and interact with the founders, investors, tech leaders, activists and policymakers who are deeply involved in how technology influences the lives of ordinary people in countries outside the West.

Every week, for most of 2021, we spent “3 minutes” in a rapid-fire Q&A session with some of these changemakers. These are some of our favorite responses. 

Moulaye Tabouré

Co-founder, (Côte d’Ivoire)

The challenge facing e-commerce in Francophone Africa

Trust! Of course between buyers and sellers, but especially among sellers. Due to previous experiences and lack of confidence, collaboration is limited. As few share their experience, learning and growth are also lacking in depth. That is why communities like the ones we want to build will be essential to Africa’s e-commerce growth on the global stage.

Adia Sowho

Startup advisor & investor (Nigeria)

The most common misconception about doing business in Nigeria

That consumers at the bottom of the pyramid do not value quality products. They are actually better at identifying and rejecting a value proposition that does not deliver on promised value than a “more sophisticated” consumer.

Belva Devara

CEO/co-founder, Ruangguru (Indonesia)

The most exciting investment trend

I’m most excited about the fact that the larger startups, the unicorns, are starting to go public. Bukalapak is one of them, GoTo is another. I think that kind of gives us — the younger startups — role models to look up to. They’re not just listing here in Indonesia; they’re also listing in the West and other markets. This is the first time that we’re seeing this part of the world get more spotlight in the eyes of the investors. Previously, I think there were very few companies, especially tech companies, that investors were able to get exposure to the growth that we’re experiencing here in Southeast Asia — and [then] seeing that their IPOs are successful. I think that will spur the next wave of new startups that will be beneficial for all of us.

Henry Motte-Muñoz

Founder, (Philippines)

The challenge with enabling online education

The biggest is connectivity. Internet speeds have improved, and costs have fallen, but reliable, affordable, and fast-enough internet for online learning is a reality for maybe just 15% to 20% of learners. This means even students in middle-class families aren’t set up for a successful online ed experience. Record capex by the two incumbent telco operators and the recent arrival of a third player are fortunately bridging the divide

Rameesh Kailasam

CEO, (India)

One policy tweak that can transform India’s startup ecosystem

The boom we are witnessing today is around startups and emerging innovative and disruptive technologies. A 10-year liberal tax approach around capital gains backed by enabling regulations of new age tech startups can open the floodgates for wealth creation and put Indian startups on the world map — while also ushering India to a $10 trillion economy by 2030.

Amee Parbhoo

Managing director, Accion Venture Lab (USA)

A fintech opportunity often overlooked in Asia and Africa

Thinking about the “assets” that consumers and small businesses have. Too often we don’t see what that looks like for an underserved customer. It might be their salary, their land, it might be a motorcycle they own, it might be their shop or inventory that the shop owner has. All of these different things can unlock the potential to reach that consumer. While they might look cash-poor and not valuable for a lender or a financial institution to reach and serve, in reality, there’s a lot of power there for that consumer. A lot of what we find interesting is unlocking those assets, helping customers better leverage them—whether that’s through data on their shops, traction from the business they’re doing, or their salaries—and using that as an asset to provide financial services.

Laís Xavier

CTO, Muda Meu Mundo (Brazil)

One exciting investment trend for Latin America

Investments in startups that think about the production chain and sustainability. We’ve seen a transformation in the behavior of shoppers. As time passes, people have become more conscious of what they eat. People now question where their food comes from and whether it is sustainably produced. That change in the mindset of shoppers is new, and this investment in sustainability, and food without chemicals, will specifically impact our segment when the shopper is in the grocery store. This was apparent during the pandemic — we were able to generate value for everyone in the production chain, and we now have consumers more concerned about the origin and sustainable practices of the supply chain.

Sophia Alj

Co-founder & COO, Chari (Morocco)

The most common misconception about doing business in North Africa

Thinking it’s easy. I feel people abroad do not realize that these countries can have huge markets in specific industries. The question Y Combinator asks you is, “How are you going to make a billion-dollar company?” And depending on the industry you’re in, honestly, I truly believe that in North Africa, we can make unicorns and billion-dollar companies.

Kiaan Pillay

Founder & CEO, Stitch (South Africa)

The biggest misstep as a founder

Being quiet. I’ve been privileged to have worked with an exceptionally talented team and to have support from incredible customers and investors, but we largely operated in stealth for a long time. A lot of the decision around this was driven by fear around how the market would react to what we’re building. But the majority of our recent progress has come from actually getting our product out there, interacting with customers, and realistically failing a ton, and failing fast, but then iterating on that to make the product better.

Saroja Yeramilli

Founder & CEO, Melorra (India)

The one big misconception about e-commerce in India

The biggest misconception about internet businesses in India is that people assume most of the buyers are from metros or from tier 2 cities. The truth is that a lot of buying is happening from semi-urban India and also rural India because they lack access to great products and brands with good quality.

Eric Pérez-Grovas

Co-founder & general partner, Wollef (Mexico)

How venture capital has changed in Latin America

It’s more accepted to be an entrepreneur. Now people see it as a very good and valid opportunity to either start or become part of a tech startup. Another important change is the availability of resources. Now, the steps are ready. You can start getting money from angel investors, but then you can move to pre-seed, seed, and Series A, and beyond.

Geoffrey See

Co-founder, Shoppa (Vietnam)

Why social commerce is more successful than traditional e-commerce 

An amazing statistic is that 70% of the $22 billion e-commerce market in Vietnam is social commerce. I was always amazed when I first came to Vietnam how many people would purchase products off a friend’s Facebook wall. I believe there are two main reasons for this. The first is that 80% of Vietnamese live outside of the core urban centers of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh city and a few other of the largest cities, where traditional e-commerce has penetrated. Community commerce or social commerce fills this gap in many other parts of Vietnam. The second is that there is a trust deficit in Vietnam. Many of our customers complain about fake or low-quality products or poor service – these are problems they solve through their network.