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Southeast Asia's young tech talent, long drawn to Silicon Valley to study and work, have begun returning to their home shores to build the next tech boom. (Illustration by Eric Chow)
The Big Story

Southeast Asian 'turtles' return home to hatch tech startups

Skills shortage prompts companies to scour Silicon Valley for talent

ERWIDA MAULIA, Nikkei staff writer | Indonesia

JAKARTA/SAN FRANCISCO -- Levana Sani left Jakarta nine years ago to study biochemistry at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. Graduating in 2014, Levi -- as she prefers to be called -- was torn between pursuing a career in science by working on a Ph.D., or studying for an MBA with the idea of eventually returning home to start a business. It was Asia's burgeoning tech startup scene that cemented her decision.

"In my mind, there's always this idealistic picture and the realistic picture," Levi says, sitting in a bustling coworking space she shares with other local startups in South Jakarta, a business district of high-rise office buildings. "The idealistic picture is, I'm gonna be in the U.S., I'm gonna be a great scientist ... but then there's also, I wanna give back to [my] country."

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