The recently concluded Startup Nation — one of Southeast Asia’s biggest startup events — saw the inaugural convening of the Southeast Asia Startup Assembly (SEASA), a semi-government bloc that aims to create a continual discussion of grass roots issues and to come up with solutions.
The idea behind SEASA was mooted by the National Innovation Agency of Thailand’s executive director, Dr. Pun-Arj Chairatana, and e27’s Thaddeus Koh, and is aimed at accelerating the formation of new and improved government policies in tandem with the quickening growth of new technologies and new startups in the SEA region.
The first SEASA forum invited government agency representatives from 11 countries to kickstart the first discussion on market access programmes available to growing startups that would enable them to further build their businesses in the region.
The participating countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – were invited to align on current startup programmes within ASEAN and develop cross-country partnerships, striving to create a pan-regional collaboration to allow market access to startups
Rooted in the need for international level collaboration
A version of SEASA was first created in 2018 when the Government-to-Government (G2G) forum was hosted in Singapore by e27.
This predecessor to SEASA focused on bringing key government agencies to discuss the most pressing issues faced by each individual country in the ASEAN bloc and concluded with the understanding that there needs to be a collaborative effort between countries to solve these problems within the startup ecosystems.
In May of 2019, the second G2G forum was held again, this time co-hosted byt NIA and e27 at the Echelon Asia Summit in Singapore, leading to SEASA being incorporated during Startup Nation to focus and accelerate on the ways government agencies can work more closely on upcoming projects.
Startup Nation as a launchpad
Startup Nation is just one of many ambitious initiatives of NIA in order to make Thailand a more startup-friendly nation.
In 2018, NIA Executive Director Dr. Pun-Arj Chairatana stated that Thailand has to build an ecosystem that can inspire “deep tech” startups and focus on researching the use of advanced technologies rather than only digital technology if the country is to become a global startup destination.
In Startup Nation, NIA emphasised the importance of MAR Tech and deep tech. MAR Tech specifically is quite rare; fewer than 20 out of over 2,000 existing startups are in this sector. However, it has become evident that MAR Tech startups in countries such as Japan or South Korea can encourage economic growth by integrating art, music, and culture into technology.
All these efforts are part of the NIA’s plan to catapult Thailand’s startup scene onto the global stage and make the country a go-to destination for startups, both locally and internationally. In order to do this, they have also joined hands with True Digital Park to create a “landing pad for global startups” that provides co-working spaces and smart visas, reported the Bangkok Post.
“If we have more foreign startups here by helping them to collaborate with local startups and co-found new ventures, that will benefit the country,” said Mr Pun-Arj.
SEASA’s inaugural forum having been held in Bangkok is a massive leap towards that direction, having garnered the confidence and support of the country’s proud Southeast Asian neighbors and beyond.
About Startup Nation
Startup Nation 2019 took place over five days in July, and had over 500 startups from 25 countries and 200 speakers in attendance, as well as over 50 venture capitals from all over the globe.
Featured speakers included Taizo Son, CEO of Mistletoe; Mike Pappas, CEO and co-founder of Modulate; Kristi Kelly, Executive Director of the Trade Organisation Marijuana Industry Group; and Luis Sarre, co-founder and CEO of Free Entrepreneurs which was distinguished in China as “Entrepreneurial Guidance Expert” and “Technology Innovation Expert” in 2018.
The events spread out over nine venues in Bangkok. Each venue had its own topic of interest to attract attendees from various fields:
1.National Innovation Agency – The opening ceremony for Startup Nation was held at the National Innovation Agency, with forums and discussions that followed, focusing specifically on medical and health tech in Thailand.
2. Siam Innovation – Teams from various universities including Chiang Mai University, Prince of Songkla University, and Mae Fah Luang University gathered at the Siam Innovation to participate in startup-related activities.
3. The Knowledge Exchange (KX) – The Knowledge Exchange hosted attendees with a keen interest in deep technology, which is defined as areas covering the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robots, quantum computing, nuclear or renewable tech, space tech, or medical tech.
4. AIS Design Center – Talks at the AIS Design Center focused on travel and tourism tech, with speakers such as Ms. Pahrada Sapprasert, Director at 500 Startups, Ms. Agnieszka Krzysztofowicz, representative from Hotailors, and Mr. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT Deputy Governor for Digital Research and Development.
5. Hanger by DTAC Accelerate – Hanger by DTAC Accelerate hosted panel discussions and forums on agricultural and food tech that tackled the role that related startups play in feeding the world, and how they can scale their businesses in the region.
6. Glowfish – Glowfish’s concept of Work, Play, and Grow set the standard for modern offices, using innovative design to increase productivity, business growth, as well as to support customers’ lifestyle choices.
7. Naplab – Naplab is not only designed to be a work place, but there are also other facilities and options offered such as sitting area, private area, bedroom, steel frame, meeting room, slider from the fourth floor, bar counter, drinks, etc.
8. Thailand Creative Design Center (TCDC) – TCDC’s focus was on MAR Tech — MAR stands for Music, Arts, and Recreation. This is part of a push into Thailand’s creative industries to encourage economic growth. The talks covered artist management, the textiles industry, Esports business opportunities, and music marketing.
9. True Digital Park – Book launches and panel discussions were held at True Digital Park, including the launch of “The Founder”.