Thai government announced plans to support the country’s growing startup communities by setting up to THB20 billion (US$570 million) of fund for local startups.

Bangkok Post reported that the Ministry of ICT will set up a THB10 billion (US$285 million) Digital Economy Fund specifically for tech startups, while The Nation reported that Ministry of Finance will set up a THB10 billion (US$285 million) Competitiveness Fund for startups in healthcare, finance, agriculture, tourism and digital technology groups.

The government also plans to give tax exemptions and capital gains tax to encourage the private sector to invest in startups through venture capital funds.

It is estimated that there are about 1,000 to 2,500 startups in Thailand today, and the government aims to increase the number to 10,000 by 2018.

To reach the goal, the government wants to set up ‘startup districts’ across the country — starting from Siam Square in Bangkok to other provinces such as Chiang Mai — to help the companies expand locally.

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“This year, the government is committed to supporting startups to expand their customer base, not just in Bangkok, but in every part of Thailand,” said Minister of Science and Technology Pichet Durongkaveroj.

According to Minister of ICT Uttama Savanayana, the government also seeks to partner with the private sector and universities (such as Chulalongkorn University, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Lat Krabang, Bangkok University and Sripatum University) to set up a startup incubator.

No further details on the startup incubator were mentioned, but the it will provide support for starting new businesses, investments to expand businesses, consultations with experts, partnerships for research and development and a co-working space to do business.

It will focus on sectors such as tourism, healthcare, robotics, and creative content.

The incubation programme also aims to help local startups expand to other ASEAN markets such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

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Local player in the startup industry, such as FlowAccount Co-Founder Kridsada Chutinaton, greeted the plan with excitement.

“It’s refreshing to see the government starting to show concrete interest in supporting startups,” he wrote in an e-mail to e27.

However, apart from partnership with private sectors, he believed that there are still ‘much to be learned and fine-tuned by each of the parties involved.’

“Revising the rules and  regulations to be more startup-friendly and to increase the ease of doing business is crucial for our ecosystem. Currently we are seeing so many successful local startups having to set-up holding companies overseas as early as in seed and Series A [stage] … If the government can take quick action in resolving these issues, it would be much easier for local startups to raise capital from VCs and for VCs to invest in local startups,” he explained.

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