Sybase IT incubator opens Asian markets

A Sybase-led Asian Solutions Centre is assisting Australian companies to overcome cultural barriers when forming strategic partnerships in the Asian region.

Launched earlier this year, the Hong-Kong based ASC incubator showcases IT solutions developed by Sybase and local strategic partners. It pitches innovations from the finance, telecommunications, healthcare, insurance, transportation and government sectors to Asia's IT investors.

Sybase invested $US10 million in the ASC, Sybase executives said. The Hong Kong Productivity Council shares an equal stake in the "ideas" centre, according to Wendy Stephens, marketing manager of Sybase Australia.

Unlike traditional IT partnerships where companies may pay service fees to align with a vendor, Sybase and Australian member companies of the ASC will enter regional business ventures together, sharing the risk and benefit, Stephens said.

"To pick up and go into a foreign culture and go into business -- they're landing with very little or no support," she said. "They have no understanding of how (the region's) businesses operate socially or in a business sense," Stephens claimed.

Due to Sybase's established presence in Asian IT markets, Sybase "understood what the workings were; who was available in the market", Stephens asserted.

"We see the Centre as a real gain for Australian companies in getting access to Asian markets and getting exposure," said a spokesman for Concord Australia, a Brisbane-based storage software provider for the education sector. "It gives us the opportunity to be known even before (we) arrive," said Collin Bell, managing director of Concord Australia.

A Sybase independent software vendor (ISV) for five years, Concord visited the ASC for assistance in crossing the cultural divide in business dealings with Asian investors.

Concord had formed uncomfortable relationships with Asian companies in the past, according to the spokesman.

He cited what he viewed as their "proud" and hierarchical approach to negotiating, the greatest challenge to entering Asian markets.

"In Asia there's a lot of pride at stake among senior executives," he said. His company felt intimidated when dealing with investors who demanded a 10 per cent proportion of proposed investment up-front during negotiations, the spokesman recalled. In contrast, local investors agreed to a 25 or 30 per cent margin up-front on local sales, he said.

"Asia is such a different and massive market," he mused. "Having (the Sybase) relationship gives us more assurance and local knowledge."

Sybase will have 50 of its global partner staff working at the ASC in technical, consulting, business alliance and marketing roles, providing Australian IT companies with a broad advisory skill set, Stephens said.

Other local companies with plans to visit the ASC's productivity and consulting facilities include Essential Computer Systems, Powerserve, Tacit Group and Wellington-based Compudigm, all of which are Sybase-accredited ISVs.

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