In a follow up interview with Patai Padungtin, founder of Thailand-based startup Builk, he shared with us some of the interesting things which followed after Builk won the first prize at Echelon 2012
Builk was the only Thai that pitched at Echelon and won the first prize, and this put Builk under the spotlight for local magazines as well as local press in Thailand. We were featured on Thumbsup twice as well as a handful of other local news. We are really humbled by all the confidence and support. Operational and business wise, there were more business enquiries for our company thanks to Echelon, for example, there were some overseas potential sponsors whom called to enquire more about what we are doing.
Rethinking what we need
All the support and enquiries made us rethink whether we need any further funding from the various venture capitalists that showed interests in us. As we are currently cash flow positive, we can expand by ourselves, but undoubtedly, with a cash injection from VC, we can grow even faster. However, the money could be detrimental for our team as one can lose the passion because of the money. For Builk, we pride ourselves for our passion towards the construction industry. If we are to accept any term sheets, we want an investor who believes in our passion and understand that the industry is not an industry that is heating up like the tech industry. We run on a traditional business model unlike tech startups, which sells product, and see immediate returns.
Expanding to Indonesia
Our immediate plan is to explore possible expansion to Indonesia and then Australia. For Indonesia, we are keen to partner with someone who has the local insights and the relevant background. We are not confident of going into Indonesia alone, but we are confident to bring our experience from Thailand to the table. This can make the whole process of digitizing the construction industry easier.
The Thai startup ecosystem
Thailand is not that attractive to startups as well as investors because of one main reason: the language barrier. However, there are more and more interest towards our country from the Japanese. In terms of the level of interest from the Japanese, they are interested in Indonesia and Vietnam mainly because of the market size, and Thailand follows closely after the two countries due to better infrastructure and Internet penetration. In Thailand, most startups centers around SOLOMO (Social, Local and Mobile), and you see a lot of startups localizing successful business models around the region into the local market.
Evangelizing the Builk story to Thai startups
Our story should serve as an inspiration to local startups to think further than the Thai market. I will try my best to explore more opportunities and go back to tell the rest of the community that we can do so much more other than just SOLOMO in Thailand. Startups should come out and explore the ecosystem around the region, because before I come to Echelon, I have never heard about VC in this region. Most of the ones that I am aware of in Thailand are those that are not focusing on tech, and they are not experienced in the tech industry.
Exit strategies and plans for Builk
For myself, I have never thought about any exit strategy. I simply follow my instinct, proper execution, and I never think about selling my company nor do I think about taking any money from VC. All I think about is to run my business and turn it into cash flow positive as soon as possible. This applies not only to Builk, but also to my previous two businesses. I think most of the startups in thai think that way too. We bootstrap and will only think about the returns in one to two years.