Patai Padungtin is well-known in the Thai startup community. Also the founder of Builk, the 34-year-old shares about setting up and going regional.
His company was chosen by a panel of respectable judges as the winner of Echelon 2012′s startup competition, as it highlights the opportunities available in an industry considered “unsexy”. It received an investment of US$400,000 from Project Planning Service PLC as their strategic partner, and has its eyes set on entering Indonesia and Australia.
The above two paragraphs are just public information, available on his Facebook account, our online publication and Builk’s website. What exactly is it about Patai that makes him the role model that he is? Young Thai entrepreneurs, especially first-timers in the tech scene, often look up to him with respect. The man, a common sight at startup-focused events, said that he once wanted to change his life.
“I would like to change my life”
If you were wondering, Patai’s first business was actually not Builk. In fact, his second business was not Builk either. The two startups he was involved in before setting up a software-as-a-service product for the construction industry rendered him tired and miserable. He said:
“I really suffered. The second business was an enterprise resource planning (ERP) company with a partner. It’s a service-oriented business. Every time we take time off to scale [...] I would want to change from service-oriented to something that I can scale.”
Furthermore, he had just gotten married back then, and felt that he wanted to have more time with his family. He shared, “After I had a daughter, I need more time. [...] I would like to change my life. I would like to have more time. [...] In the first three years, I spent more time with family and focused with local market and products.”
Patai also shared that he would often advise young startups to focus on the local market. It’s a similar message to what Moo Natavudh and Nick Seguin said about Thai entrepreneurs in previous articles — look at the local market as a way to test the water. The experienced founder said, “We should think further. Your competitor can come any time and be quite aggressive. Wongnai is good example of success localized. But not every case can be like that.”
However, when moving into the regional space, companies should always look at partnering up with local entities. Patai explained, “The infrastructure of Builk is ready for localization. We work with local partners to do market validation and focus groups. Enterprise applications like Builk has to deal with currency, taxation and invoicing.”
Life is not about success
Patai goes to his fair share of startup events, and speaks to many young entrepreneurs based in Thailand. He said, “[They are often] looking for success fast but we fail many times before reaching success. I think Thai startups – some of them – are not there to fail. We are always talking about success. I would like to share about how we fail and fail many times.”
It reminded me of an image I saw making its rounds on various social media platforms. It’s important that startups know what they’re getting into. Just like how Builk is Patai’s third company, and Angry Birds took Rovio 52 tries, don’t give up if your first startup fails or does not give you what you were looking for.