Last updated September 30th, 2018.
Southeast Asia, with huge growth rates and unprecedented developments in several countries, is home to many of the best startup ecosystems.
Singapore leads ASEAN as having the best environment for startups. The city-state is the world’s easiest place to do business too. But many other Southeast Asian nations are also attracting talented entrepreneurs and investors with deep pockets.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand are all competing to improve their startup ecosystems. However, Thailand especially shows potential in becoming another booming hub for startups in Asia.
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.
Thai startups are well-positioned because of quality infrastructure, lower costs, and a strategic location in ASEAN’s heart.
Why Form a Startup in Thailand?
Thailand has several advantages which can propel its startups forward. Relative to neighbors such as 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.
Furthermore, 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.
Tourism infrastructure is meant to help foreigners here temporarily. English-language signage and a global atmosphere makes it easy for expats to settle in permanently though.
Third, Thailand has a strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region. With 6 international airports, Thailand serves as a regional hub for flights. They’re also one of few countries in ASEAN with direct flights to everywhere in Asia and most countries in Europe.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Thailand has one of the highest rates of internet and social media users. The mobile penetration rate is 150% – that’s one and a half phones for every Thai person.
There’s Tons of Thai Startups
There are many success stories of startups originating in Phuket, Chiang Mai, or Bangkok. These range from local startups to those which foreign multinationals later acquired.
Thailand is home to some of the most prominent acquired tech startups in the region. The list includes:
- 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. This was also with the intention of global expansion.
In addition to nurturing companies which were later acquired, Thailand has many successful local startups which were 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, it 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 Also See Success
However, the story does not end here. Local startups are not the only ones since Thailand has many prominent foreign-owned startups which 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 supporting parties 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 also boasts five incubators and accelerators, three of which are under the telecom giants: DTAC, TRUE, and AIS.
With the emergence of networking events, incubators, and venture capital firms, the Thai startup ecosystem is maturing at a rate you shouldn’t ignore.
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