Over a coffee with Warren: Expanding into Asia

Adyen’s APAC President Warren Hayashi talks WeChat Pay, Southeast Asia and mind-reading

Warren grew up in Taiwan and Japan, but moved to the US to study Computer Science and Economics at Stanford.

He found himself in Silicon Valley, where it was all about breaking the rules, pushing the limits and making things better.

It was this formative period that fueled Warren’s passion for technology and its ability change people’s lives.

How do you take your coffee?

All black, all the way.

How would you compare doing business in the US to doing business in Asia?  

Well, for example, in the US you can send off an email and be done with it. But in a lot of cultures in Asia, people prefer face-to-face meetings, and often you will get a request to meet the next day mid-way somewhere in Asia. That takes time to get used to. 

The market in Asia is evolving very fast. What key changes have you seen? 

10 years ago it was all about US or European companies entering into Asia. Now Asian companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Rakuten, Xiaomi and Atlassian are extending their footprint globally.  

Do you think these Asian companies are leading the way in terms of innovation?

Although the initial ideas might have emerged from the West, I think a lot of Asian companies are taking things to the next level.  Just look at the way social media has evolved.

Currently the talk of the town is how WeChat has gone beyond a communication platform and evolved into a payment method with WeChat Pay. 

China is often perceived to be a closed market, would you say that is true? 

China is a really interesting market, and many international businesses have had a tough time there.  But, while businesses often assume this is due to regulatory challenges, the reality is that the key challenge is the local competitors.  These players know the local market, and they are very hungry.  

So looking at APAC in general, what would you say is the most exciting market?

I think Southeast Asia is really exciting, and we are seeing increasing interest from many of our global customers. There are 600 million people, with a high proportion both young and tech-savvy.

There are also some very exciting startup ecosystems, with so much energy and so many ideas. But what really ties it together is the fact that it is very mobile-heavy and there is a lot of innovation going on. 

Last year Adyen expanded into Australia. What are your early impressions of the market?  

We are seeing an incredible demand for omnichannel payments. Online pure-plays are starting to setup pop-up stores, and traditional retailers are trying to figure out how to have an online presence. Of course instead of having separate channels, they are trying to integrate everything into one consumer experience.  

You are responsible for a fast growing team across several offices. What is your hiring strategy?

We have such a diverse set of customers across the fragmented landscape here in APAC. We look for people that have a strong knowledge of local culture and language, in addition to payments expertise. I also look for people who get excited about the unknown.

Many people have a process-approach to doing business, but that’s not what we’re looking for. We want people who are going to make the rules, not follow them. 

So finally what advice would you give an international merchant when preparing to enter Asia Pacfic?

We say “Asia Pacific” in one breath but there are just so many countries here, not to mention the fragmentation, the languages involved and the cultural differences. Conducting a meeting in Japan, for example, is very different from in India.

Go to the country and really understand what the local consumers are experiencing. Technology changes so fast in these countries, so it is important to have eyes and ears on the ground. 

Before we go… If you could have any superpower, what would it be? 

It would have to be the ability to read people’s minds. I’m operating in an area covering 14 or 15 different countries where there are so many cultural nuances. Sometimes it would be useful to have some insight into what people are really thinking.


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