Last updated November 2nd, 2018.

 

With high growth rates and unprecedented change throughout the region, Southeast Asia is home to many of the world’s best startup ecosystems.

Singapore leads Asia in having the best environment for startups. The city-state also ranks among the world’s easiest places for doing business in general.

However, other Southeast Asian nations are now attracting talented entrepreneurs and investors with deep pockets.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand are all competing to improve their startup ecosystems. Thailand especially shows promise in becoming another booming hub for startups in Asia though.

One reason is because Thais have great affinity for the entrepreneurial spirit. Just look at any street in Bangkok and you’ll see tons of vendors with their own businesses.

Startups in Thailand are well-positioned because of quality infrastructure, lower costs, and a strategic location in ASEAN’s geographic heart.

 

Why Form a Startup in Thailand?

Thailand has several key advantages that could help propel the nation’s future startup environment.

Compared to neighbors like Singapore, Thailand offers some of the cheapest living costs and office rentals. Bangkok boasts among the region’s best cost of life to development ratios too.

Furthermore, the country offers a rich culture including a wide assortment of cuisine and vibrant nightlife. This not only draws more talent into the kingdom, but often makes those already living in Thailand want to stay longer.

Plentiful English-language signage and a global atmosphere makes it easier for expats to live in Thailand permanently. Meanwhile, tourist infrastructure is geared toward helping foreigners stay here temporarily.

Thailand enjoys a strategic location in the Asia-Pacific region’s heart as well.

With six different international airports, Thailand is certainly an emerging flight hub. Bangkok’s airport is one of few in ASEAN having direct flights to everywhere in Asia and most countries in Europe.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, Thailand has one of the highest rates of internet and social media users on the planet. The mobile penetration rate is a staggering 150% – that’s one and a half phones for every Thai person.

 

There’s Lots of Different Thai Startups

Many startup success stories originate in Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok. They range from local startups to ones which foreign multinationals later acquired.

Thailand is home to some of the most prominent acquired tech companies in the region. Just a few Thai startups on the list include:

 

  • The online hotel booking website Agoda. Founded in 1997, Priceline.com acquired them with the intention of strengthening their foothold in Southeast Asia.
  • The daily deal site Ensogo. Founded in 2010, Living Social from the United States acquired it just one year later to expand their global presence.

 

Beyond nurturing companies which were later acquired, Thailand also has many successful local startups that successfully rose capital from VCs and overseas investors.

A few honorable mentions include:

 

  • Thailand’s very own restaurant review website Wongnai was founded in 2010 and went through two rounds of fundraising. Both were from Japan’s Recruit Strategic Partners, estimated at over US$1.5 million.
  • The digital publication platform Ookbee. Founded in 2011, its current funding stands at US$9 million.
  • E-commerce solutions provider aCommerce. Founded in 2013, its current funding stands at US$18.8 million from multiple VCs.

 

Foreign-Owned Startups in Thailand

But Thailand’s local startups aren’t the only success stories. The country has many prominent foreign-owned startups that are performing strongly.

A few big names include taxi app Grabtaxi, food delivery service Foodpanda, and online shopping websites Lazada and Zalora, and even Facebook as they seek to open a Bangkok office.

These businesses wouldn’t have been possible without support from venture capital groups willing to finance these ambitious projects.

Regarding financing, Thailand proudly has two crowdfunding platforms. Five Thai-based VC firms and six foreign VCs actively invest in the country too.

Thailand boasts five different startup incubators and accelerators. Three of them are owned by telecom giants DTAC, TRUE, and AIS.

With the emergence of countless networking events, incubators, and venture capital firms, the Thai startup ecosystem is maturing at a rate you shouldn’t ignore.

Are you thinking about investing in Asia’s startups? You may also want to consider Vietnam which, like Thailand, is among the region’s most dynamic countries.

 

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About Reid Kirchenbauer

Reid Kirchenbauer is the Founder of InvestAsian. He's an accomplished stock trader and property investor in Thailand, Cambodia, and many other places. He's been featured in publications such as Forbes, Nomad Capitalist, Property Report, and Seeking Alpha. Download his free investment guide by clicking here.

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