In an age where everyone aims to become an entrepreneur, it is important to know the ecosystems to support the goals of a startup. With huge growth rates and unprecedented developments in most of its countries, Southeast Asia is home to many of the best startup ecosystems.
Without a doubt, Singapore leads ASEAN as having the best environment for startups and being the easiest country to do business in as ranked globally. However, many other Southeast Asian countries are also stepping it up in order to attract and develop talented entrepreneurs and investors with deep pockets.
Behind Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand are competing in improving their startup ecosystems.
But seems that Thailand has shown much potential in becoming another booming hub for startups. Thais have shown great affinity to the entrepreneurship spirit (just look at a typical street to see all vendors with their own business), and Thailand itself is well-positioned to develop itself into a nurturing home for startups and entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors.
The country has innate advantages that it can use to propel its startups forward. Relative to its ASEAN neighbors such as Singapore and Malaysia, Thailand offers some of the cheapest costs both for renting offices and the cost of living. In the region, it has the best cost of life to development ratio.
In addition, Thailand offers a rich culture including a wide assortment of cuisine and vibrant nightlife. This often not only draws more talent into the kingdom, but makes those already here want to stay longer. While tourism infrastructure is meant to help those here temporarily, the English-language signage and international atmosphere makes it easy for expats to settle in.
Thirdly, Thailand has a strategically advantageous position in the region. With 6 international airports, Thailand serves as a regional hub for flights and is one of the few countries in the region with direct flights to all countries in Asia and most countries in Europe.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Thailand has one of the highest rates of internet users and active social media users whose daily lives revolve around these digital tools. The mobile penetration rate is 150% – that’s one and a half phones for every Thai person.
Acquisitions in Thailand
There have been many success stories of startups originating in Phuket, Chiang Mai or Bangkok and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. These range from local startups to those that were later acquired to foreign startups in Thailand.
Thailand is home to some of the most prominent acquired tech startups in the region. The list includes but is not limited to:
- The online hotel booking website Agoda, founded in 1997 and acquired by Priceline.com for an undisclosed amount with the intention of strengthening their foothold in Southeast Asia
- The daily deal site Ensogo, founded in 2010 and acquired the year after by Living Social from US for an undisclosed amount. This was also with the intention of international expansion
In addition to nurturing companies that were later acquired, Thailand boasts many local startups that have been successful in raising capital from VCs and overseas investors.
A few honorable mentions include:
- Thailand’s very own restaurant review website Wongnai, founded in 2010 and having been through two rounds of fund raising. Both were from Japan’s Recruit Strategic Partners, and estimated to be over US$1.5 million
- The digital publication platform Ookbee, founded in 2011 with current funding at US$9 million
- E-commerce solutions provider aCommerce, founded in 2013 with current funding standing at US$18.8 million from a collection of VCs
However, the story does not end here. Local startups are not the only ones as Thailand experiences many prominent foreign-owned startups that are doing well.
A few big names include taxi app Grabtaxi, food delivery service Foodpanda, online shopping websites Lazada and Zalora, and even Facebook as they look to open a Bangkok Office.
These startups would not have been possible without the supporting parties that are willing to finance these ambitious projects. Regarding financing, Thailand proudly has two crowd funding platforms, five Thai based VC firms, and six foreign VC that actively invest in the country.
The ecosystem also boasts five Thai based incubators and accelerators, three of which are under the telecom giants: DTAC, TRUE, and AIS.
With the emergence and gradual proliferation of networking events, incubators, and venture capital firms, the Thai startup ecosystem is maturing at a rate that must not be ignored.