Bango joined UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his recent trade mission to Asia. The government led mission was to highlight the UK’s fast-expanding financial technology sector, notable for its emphasis on SME’s and regional businesses, reflecting the Government’s emphasis on accelerating export growth and positioning the UK as a global leader. Here Bango CEO, Ray Anderson, gives an inside view on the trip.
I initially ignored a voicemail from “Number 10” as a prank call, but when they called a second time I realized that the opportunity to join a select bunch of CEO’s on a technology trade mission to Asia was real. The trip was deliberately revealed only 10 days ahead of departure and timings kept under wraps, this improved security for the Prime Minister and other secretaries of state going with us. However it was revealed that we would visit five cities in four days, departing Stansted on Sunday evening and landing at Heathrow early on Friday.
Meeting with Presidents and CEOs of giant companies and attending state banquets is not really a selling opportunity, it’s about boosting the Bango brand with the decision makers who matter to Bango and our app store partners. Deciding whether to spend four days on that versus time with customers or the Bango team was a tough call – but I decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn whether we could benefit from this approach – and it’s possible to do other stuff while travelling.
We were travelling on a chartered 30 year old 757, configured with around 25 rows of four abreast, old style “armchair” business class. Politicians and entourage (speech writer, close protection, organizers, ministers, assistants, Spads etc.) in rows 1-12, CEOs in rows 13-20 and journalists from ITN, BBC, Sky plus Reuters in the last few rows. Very cozy but we got great service from the cabin crew.
Bango has seen great success in Indonesia – the initial country of the mission – integrating the leading mobile operators such as Indosat and Telkomsel with the top app stores – Google Play, Microsoft, BlackBerry etc. Number 10 had done a great job in arranging the seating at the state banquet. I was seated between the Minister who supervised all mobile operators and a minister with interest in emoney/epayment. Pretty relevant!
We then headed on to Singapore for networking meetings with some of our clients or people interested in our technology beyond the mobile operators. UKTI organized a great event alongside a Northern Powerhouse event at the Governor’s mansion. Although Singapore has a tiny population, it is a great place to meet people active in Asian regions.
Day three was in Vietnam, meeting mobile operators, banks, mobile money companies and regulators in both Hanoi (government hub) and HoChiMinhCity (Business center). The Vietnamese state dinner was the most “dramatic” – involving generals etc. We later learned that the word “snails” had been translated to the name of a lake where the snails came from in the English version of the menu, to avoid spooking the UK guests. They were very tasty! The biggest deal of the trip was signed in Hanoi – a half billion engine deal for Rolls Royce.
On Thursday, after meetings in HCMC we headed over to Indonesia for a sales pitch from Cyberjaya – a sort of Silicon Roundabout project, encouraging inward investment and offering a lot of help to UK businesses wanting to “start up” in Asia. That was followed by a range of meetings that had been organized by UKTI – targeting names supplied by Bango and others the week before, using the lure of a state banquet. The Malaysian State Banquet that followed was really excellent.
There then followed a high speed motorcade back to Kuala Lumpur airport to head back to our plane and then a 16hr flight – with Muscat refueling stop then back to Heathrow. There was a relaxed party atmosphere on board for the first part of the return trip, with the PM coming back to chat and allow selfies. The journalists drank the bar dry – ably supported by us CEO’s.
Bango is still following up / exploiting the contacts made. However, one unexpected benefit of the trip was the value of time spent with the CEO’s of other ambitious technology companies such as Blockchain, Ratesetter, Heraeus, Qubit and Earthport. Not only could we share tips on scaling up, regulations, markets and insights into the “big guys” but there was good motivation from being in the company of other CEO’s pushing their products out across the world.