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Flying cars. A robobus. Tesla’s Cybertruck and humanoid robot, Optimus.

These were just some of the eye-catching sights at BEYOND Expo 2024, a recent tech event in Macao that Vulcan Post had the opportunity to attend. 

But all these only make up the surface of what the event is truly trying to accomplish. 

What is its real mission in the greater tech landscape, particularly in the APAC and SEA regions, and why should more people be paying attention to it?

To dig deeper, we spoke to Dr. Gang Lu, co-founder of BEYOND Expo and founder of TechNode Group, a leading media source on China’s tech and startup ecosystems.

It all began with a clear market gap

“There’s so much happening in Asia, and we’re not just talking about China, Korea, or Japan. If you look at SEA, it’s maybe moving even faster than the three biggest countries in Asia, and it’s also a huge market.”

Yet all of this growth is being easily missed, because there aren’t many open platforms connecting the East and the West.

“If you look at all the big, famous tech platforms, most of them are like CES in Las Vegas, Web Summit in Lisbon, Slush in Helsinki, and MWC in Barcelona. All these world-class events are happening on the other side of the world,” Dr. Gang Lu expressed.

Dr. Gang Lu / Image Credit: BEYOND Expo

This, he and BEYOND Expo co-founder Jason Ho thought, had to change.

It wasn’t just a whimsical decision though, because they identified a demand for a stage that connected Asia and the international market. It was a demand that, with their combined expertise, they could address.

So, in 2021, BEYOND Expo was unveiled to the world.

A focus on prominent industries

The key pillars for every BEYOND Expo have been healthcare, climate tech, and consumer tech. 

Consumer tech’s popularity is self-explanatory—we all love and use consumer tech, and it’s a core part of our lives. 

Image Credit: BEYOND Expo

Healthcare has only grown in importance post-pandemic too, and the landscape is changing drastically with the introduction of more tech and now AI into various parts of the industry.

As Dr. Gang Lu put it, “It’s not like traditional healthcare anymore, it’s changed a lot, like now we have gene editing, and the use of AI to discover new drugs.”

The world has also grown more conscious of how we’re affecting the climate through our consumption practices, and climate tech seeks to address the present and future damage.

In particular, Dr. Gang Lu believes that the interest in healthcare and climate tech is currently prominent in Asia, hence the focus on those industries.

What’s new in 2024, though, is BEYOND Expo’s addition of the Asia-LatAm Forum to bring Latin American changemakers to the stage, and the SheTech stage to highlight the good work women entrepreneurs are doing.

Plus, with Macao being known as a global entertainment hub, Dr. Gang Lu and Jason also sought to bring in celebrity figures, positioning them as business and global leaders.

Image Credit: BEYOND Expo

They included:

  • David Beckham, who’s also a Sands Global Ambassador
  • Deng Yaping, a Chinese Olympic champion and table tennis grand slam winner
  • Stephon Marbury, a renowned NBA All-Star

A wealth of expertise from different regions

Like the previous BEYOND Expos, this year’s event was a combination of insightful panels and exciting showcases, enhanced by tech through the use of the fantastic BEYOND Expo app and live translation screens on the main stages.

Dr. Gang Lu and Jason’s international ambitions weren’t a pipe dream—speakers from Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia gathered with APAC peers to exchange knowledge and impart expertise to the crowds.

Malaysia’s very own entrepreneurs and venture capitalists made it to the event, too. 

Among those who took the stage included:

Meanwhile, three Malaysian startups showcased their innovations at the exhibition hall. They were:

  • Nutrigene, which personalises education programmes for kids using DNA analysis, and whom Vulcan Post helped bring to BEYOND Expo 2024
  • Eco Bee Biotech Sdn Bhd, which produces premium honeybee products made from Malaysian stingless (kelulut) bees
  • CiB Development Sdn Bhd, a pioneer game publishing company in Malaysia with about two decades of experience

Together, their presence in Macao proves one thing.

Although our nation and the greater SEA region might still be lacking in their wealth of deeptech companies (as Dr. Gang Lu pointed out, too), our innovations are still worth sharing with the world. 

Nutrigene, one of three Malaysian startups showcased at BEYOND Expo

They’re trailblazing the way for more Malaysian startups to be part of future BEYOND Expos, and who’s to say that we won’t have more deeptech companies to showcase by then?

A significant chunk of the greater BEYOND Expo event was also dedicated to highlighting SEA market opportunities, particularly for investors.

While quite a number of stakeholders from across SEA took the stage this year, there’s still more that Dr. Gang Lu and Jason want to do to incorporate more of them in the future.

“It’s not easy. To my understanding, SEA sounds like one place but it’s also very fragmented in terms of languages, cultures, etc., so I think we’re still trying.”

“The most important strategy and approach for us for now is to bring more people to come here like VCs, media, and entrepreneurs to see and learn, and get lots of feedback on how to improve,” Dr. Gang Lu told Vulcan Post.

At the same time, they’re hoping that SEA stakeholders can also share with the rest of the world what they’re interested in, so that more collaboration can happen.

Asia’s very own CES in the making

So, what would success look like for BEYOND Expo?

“My ultimate goal is that I hope we can be like the Asian version of CES,” Dr. Gang Lu said. 

“I don’t think we are going to be competing with CES, I think CES is a great platform. If you are interested in the global market, the American and European market, you can go to CES, but hopefully we can be like the second stop. If you are interested in the Asian market, make BEYOND Expo your must-go event every year.” 

From the start, BEYOND Expo has been embracing uncertainties. Launching at the height of the pandemic was a risky bet, with a slow uptake of international attendees. But this year’s turnout was promising, and Dr. Gang Lu believes that it can only go up from here.

Image Credit: BEYOND Expo

This year, the theme of the event was also “Embracing the Uncertainties”. An example of how it was embodied in the event was through the discussion of AI and how it is already affecting industries across the world.

“People worry about their jobs, people worry about whether AI will replace human beings, and some people don’t believe in AI, they think it’s just overhyped,” Dr. Gang Lu said. 

He added that all industries are likely facing uncertainties with how AI is poised to change processes, and that companies would have to learn AI in order to redefine their business models.

“It’s better to embrace uncertainties like these, because yes, these are uncertainties, but all these will happen. They already exist. You can’t avoid it.”

“If you say, ‘I am not going to use AI’, you are going to fail, so you have to embrace it instead of shutting the door and saying, ‘I don’t want to change.’”

While the future certainly holds uncertainties, it’s clear that BEYOND Expo will not let that stop it from doing its best to connect the APAC and SEA regions with the rest of the world.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what coming BEYOND Expos will have in store for us.

  • Learn more about BEYOND Expo here.
  • Read Malaysian startup stories here.

Featured Image Credit: BEYOND Expo

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)