LINE allocates $20m for Thai startup investments

Photo: Reuters

Line Thailand and Line Ventures have set aside $20 million to support the growth of Thai startups, with the aim of building the first Thai unicorn within 3-5 years, under the ScaleUp programme.

The ScaleUp programme aims to nurture startups by allowing them access to LINE’s 44 million users in Thailand and one year of free access to its messaging application programming interface, according to a Bangkok Post report. The sectors that it will focus on are education, digital content/media, and e-commerce that can complement Line’s businesses.

Thai startup ecosystem has been growing at a fast clip over the last four years, but none of the Thai startups has so far entered the unicorn club. Around 48 per cent of the local startups are at the seed stage, 26 per cent at Series A and 9 per cent at Series B, according to Kay Lim, global investment lead for Line Ventures Global, a venture capital arm under Line Corporation.

The potential unicorns in Thailand are believed to be in travel tech, fintech and education tech. In 2017, the Thai MarTech startup Zanroo had announced its plans to become the country’s first unicorn by 2019. However, the startup was unable to reach its goal.

“Most of the Thai startups lack a regional mindset and don’t have a plan to scale up in the overseas market from the beginning. Some have language barriers. Hence, it is not easy for them to become unicorns,” said Shift Ventures managing director Worawisut Pinyoyang. Shift is one of the investors in Zanroo.

There are several silver linings, too. Omise, a Bangkok-based online payment gateway, was the country’s first ICO unicorn, while Krungsri Finnovate-backed Finnomena is expected to be the first Thai startup to list on the local bourse.

Line Ventures currently manages three funds worth $100 billion. It has invested in 43 firms, of which 12 firms are in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, it poured $5 million into FastWork’s Series A round and acquired e-commerce platform SellSuki for an undisclosed sum last December.

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