The Thai Government is launching a $570 million venture fund for Thai startups, which will be split between two ministries, the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Finance. This is aimed at catalysing the growth of the country’s startup ecosystem.
According to a report from the Bangkok Post, the Ministry of ICT will also be establishing a $285 million Digital Economy Fund targeting technology startup ventures, while The Nation is reported that the Ministry of Financing is setting up a $284.73 million fund targeted at startup venture operating in the healthcare, finance, agriculture, tourism and digital technology sectors in Thailand.
Bangkok is keen on establishing a startup ecosystem in Thailand, with “startup districts” distributed across Thailand where companies can expand, according to Minister of Science and Technology Picket Durongkaveroj, who said, “This year, the government is committed to supporting startups to expand their customer base, not just in Bangkok but in every part of Thailand.”
This development comes as Thailand attempts to grow its venture capital sector. In a 2013 interaction with YourStory, Matt Walters, a venture partner at Ardent Capital, shared: “Venture Capital in Thailand is in a very nascent stage. If you have to raise Series A and above, you have to go to Singapore. As investors here, we facilitate those introductions for our entrepreneurs.”
He added, “However, the venture capital scene is just beginning to blossom. Expara IDM Ventures has set up offices in Thailand recently. It was also in news that Japan’s Cyberagent Ventures has hired a guy here who is covering the space for them. So the times are exciting for Thai entrepreneurs, I would say!”
Walters also highlighted the emergence of a growing community of entrepreneurs-turned-angel investors like serial entrepreneur Khailee Ng, currently a venture partner with 500 Startups, who were investing in Thailand.
Walters commented: “I am sure in future there will be more and more entrepreneurs who will become angel investors and also have understanding of the startup scene. Otherwise, you will just have HNIs who are investing from a totally different, old school paradigm with no understanding of the startup scene.”
In addition to the launch of these funds, Bangkok has plans for establishing an incubator through a multi-partner arrangement between the government, private sector firms and universities that will provide support for starting new businesses, investment for expansion, access to expert consultations, and partnerships for research and development and a co-working space to do business.
Government estimates of ventures present in Thailand indicates between 1000 to 2500 companies, with plans to increase the volume of startup ventures present in the kingdom to 10,000 ventures by 2018, as well as facilitate expansion of Thai firms to other ASEAN countries.
To date, AngelList maintain a Thai directory listing 450 companies and 5506 investors present. The kingdom presents an environment with several advantages for a growing entrepreneurial venture; affordable living and labour costs, appealing lifestyle options and a growing market where the population is increasingly literate and familiar with the Internet.
Increasingly, Thai startup ventures are gaining investor attention and attraction, with firms like motorbike messenger service Skootar, online tour marketplace Take Me Tour and online logistics services marketplace Giztix gaining attention for the solutions they bring to the market.
Since 2011, Thailand has seen the launch of a number of online booking marketplaces, with ventures like Asiarooms (now laterooms.com) and hotel booking site Agoda – examples of successful Thai enterprises that began as startup ventures.
Thailand’s’ regulatory environment is conducive to business, as well as an economic environment that combines low expenses with affordable operating and living expenses. This is complemented by a talent ecosystem that can be leveraged by growing entrepreneurial ventures.
However, its ambitions to establish itself as a startup destination will see it contending and competing with neighbours like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, who are continuing to invest considerable resources in expanding the maintaining the infrastructure of their native startup ecosystems.