“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I grew up in a Southeast Asia that was very different from the one today. I grew up in a “frontier” market. I aspired towards being Western. I wore Vans shoes. I read Hemingway. Western was better.

Children of American expats would always tell me I have an accent. One day, I snapped and told them they do too, a thoroughly American one. They hit me. I cried, kept my mouth shut, and began to curl my “r”. Western was better.

Twenty years have passed. I’ve lived in many countries across Asia. As a VC, I noticed that as China and India developed better technology, their people grew in confidence — from a view that products made domestically were inferior, to now, where there is belief that they can build world-beating technology at will.

I’d like the same for the 700 million people of Southeast Asia, my beloved homeland.

It won’t take much, I think. Just a series of startups that become globally known for what they do. A series of Southeast Asian globals.

So I’ll keep pushing, in my tiny way, supporting entrepreneurs back home… while uncurling my “r” so I may sound like myself again.

— Dimitra Taslim