Exclusive: Expara mandated manager for Thai GSB’s SMEs trust fund

Expara Thailand, a subsidiary of Singapore-based venture capital firm Exparahas been selected as the manager for SMEs Private Equity Trust Fund by the Government Savings Bank (GSB) of Thailand, a top executive of the firm told DEALSTREETASIA.

This portal had earlier reported that the government bank would establish a 2 billion baht ($60 million) SMEs fund with the first launch of a 500 million baht ($15 million) sub fund. Other sub funds would also be raised till it touches the capital target of 2 billion baht, and a fund manager would also be decided. 

Douglas Abrams, Expara’s managing director, said the trust fund will primarily invest in fintech, while it will also look at other advanced ICT areas within Thailand.

The investment vehicle is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2017. It will be actively investing for a period of 4-5 years, he added.

This is the third SMEs Private Equity Trust Fund launched in Thailand, after two previous initiatives were launched in 2016 by Thailand’s SME Bank and Krungthai Bank in collaboration with the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) and National Science and Technology Development Agency.

The vehicle will provide both seed funding for startups as well as later stage investments in high growth SMEs and follow-on investments in later-stage start-ups.

Expara will be expanding its Thailand-based team and opening a second office in Bangkok to support the fund’s operations, Abrams added.

“We are very excited about the Thai startup and venture capital market in both the near and long terms and look forward to expanding investment activity in Thailand. The market is poised for tremendous growth with an increasing number of sophisticated entrepreneurs, world-class tech infrastructure such as payments and a highly digital young population, catalysed by public sector support for the venture capital industry.“ he commented.

The state-owned bank has joined a spate of partnerships for startup growth, recently including the Creative Innovation Hub, which is committed with an initial investment cost of 400 million baht ($11.43 million), and a SMEs and startup project with Bangkok University.

There has been sizable cabinet support to this sector in Thailand, especially from major financial players. Other than the SET, which also committed 100 million baht to GSB’s SMEs Private Equity Trust Fund, and state lenders, key commercial banks have also launched their corporate venture capital arms. Siam Commercial Bank, Bangkok Bank, and Kasikorn Bank are among those who have launched corporate venture capital programmes.

Expara has a track record of managing public-private partnerships with the Singapore government, including their Expara IDM Ventures and Expara IDM Ventures II funds, which were part of the the iJAM Micro Funding Scheme, and their joint venture fund Extream Ventures, part of the National Research Foundation’s Early Stage Venture Fund programme.

Expara Thailand was launched in 2011 and it has sealed 11 investments in the country since then.

“Managing the SME Trust Fund is a great next step in our regional strategy, and Expara is looking forward to working with GSB to help create successful companies and drive the growth of the enterprise ecosystem in Thailand,” added Abrams, who has been teaching venture capital at Sasin, the business school of Chulalongkorn University since 2007.

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