With Echelon Thailand 2015 around the corner, here are the four main aspects that investors and entrepreneurs need to understand before heading to Bangkok.
With opportunities come challenges
Apart from consumer-based services and products, the highlight of Thailand’s tech ecosystem is the online gaming industry.
As stated by Saiyai Sawakee in her opinion piece for e27, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) reported that in 2014 alone the industry was valued at THB 7.8 billion (US$215 million), with 20 per cent growth predicted each year forward.
But this bright prospect is not without challenges. In late September, the Thailand military junta announced that the government plans to implement a Single Gateway policy for Internet channels.
Similar to the Great Firewall of China, the policy will reduce available gateways from ten to just one, enabling the government to surveil traffic and block access. Despite no clear details mentioned about the nature of this proposal, at least 80,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org to call for its cancellation.
The policy might directly affect the gaming industry as the government has explicitly blamed online gaming as a cause of various social problems in the country.
The sharing economy has also brewed controversy in the Thai community in general.
The country’s Department of Land Transport declared Uber as illegal for unapproved fare structures and lack of driver certification. Apart from that, the suspension of one AirBnb Superhost account without any prior notice highlights the uncertainty of sharing economy, which is yet to receive approval from regulatory bodies in many countries.
As with other Southeast Asian countries, e-commerce is also a big game in Thailand. Financial service provider Visa noted in a 2014 report that e-commerce transactions is predicted to grow at 14 per cent.
Apart from globally recognised brands such as Rakuten’s Tarad, Rocket Internet’s Lazada and Zalora, and Ardent‘s Moxy, there are also online marketplaces targetting a rather niche audience. Blisby, which is considered the local version of Etsy, is a platform for local artists to showcase their crafts.
Thailand also faces a similar challenge like Indonesia when it comes to adopting e-payment methods. While Visa also noted that credit card payment volume is up 10.6 per cent, 80 per cent of consumer expenditure is still cash-only.
These are some of the most notable exits, funding and acquisitions made in 2015:
• The new year began with Ardent Capital-backed WhatsNew Group acquiring Moxy for an undisclosed amount. Also in January, stock market app company StockRadar secured an undisclosed amount of Series A from Cyber Agent Ventures and East Ventures.
• In August, enterprise communication Eko secured US$5.7 million from Gobi Partners. The month also saw South Korean digital marketing company Yello Mobile’s acquisition of social media startup Computerlogy, for an undisclosed amount.
• In September, WearYouWant secured an undisclosed amount of Series B from Start Today Co.Ltd, Kimura Shinji of Gunosy Inc and Digital Media Partners. It has just secured US$1.5 million in Series A led by Digital Media Partners.
Thai Venture Capital Association is the organisation that supports, promotes and assists venture capital (VC) and private equity businesses in Thailand. According to its website, formal VC investment in the country was initiated by a US Aid programme in 1988 when it formed an investment company Business Venture Promotion which was owned and funded by several local banks.
There are also companies based in other Southeast Asian countries that have been investing heavily in Thai startups such as Golden Gate Ventures and Gobi Partners.
Location, location, location
Need a place to work from? We found some of the most outstanding coworking spaces and incubators in the country.
Bangkok’s first tech and creative-centric co-working space. Costs THB 260 (US$7.3) for daily use and THB 4,650 (US$130) for monthly use, the coworking space provides 10 rooms and 50 desks, with all the necessities of a good coworking space like meeting rooms, speedy internet, library, and on-site events.
Hubba recently received US$350,000 pre-Series A from 500 Startups, Ardent Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, and some angel investors. It is also teaming up with property development Sansiri to build artisan co-creation community called HUBBA-TO.
Considered as a great choice for the budget-minded, BaseCamp serves 60 seats and meeting rooms at the lowest rate in town. At THB 199 (US$5.5) per day and THB 3,499 (US$98.2) for the month, the place is a favourite for entrepreneurial and tech-focussed ventures led by both Thais and locals.
The co-working space provides a full-service shared office that even offer virtual office services that can provide a physical address needed to register a business. With its futuristic interior, the facilities include free parking, PO Box and receptionist service.
The perks certainly come at a suitable price of THB 325 (US$9.1) for daily use and THB 21,000 (US$589) for monthly office use.
How about areas other than Bangkok?
In Chiang Mai, there are plenty of co-working spaces that entrepreneurs can opt for. Punspace provides a quiet space that foreigners are into while Guru’s Box is a warehouse-sized co-working space that often hosts popular events.
Want a more relaxed environment to work in? Then Phuket is where you should go, though there is only Phuket Coworking available at the moment. The Sea ceased operations in early October 2015.
Another note-worthy institution for tech startups is the Houston Technology Center (HTC) Asia Bootcamp. In collaboration with Sasin Technological Center, the institution provides a two-month accelerator programme for entrepreneurs and startups in the field of clean or renewable energy, bio- and nanotechnology, life sciences and industrial information technologies, as well as NASA and aerospace technologies. Dubbed as ‘the first ever US-Thailand startup accelerator programme,’ the institution is a not-for-profit.
Echelon Thailand 2015 will take place on November 26 and 27, from 8:30 AM to 5.30 PM with an exclusive after-party that runs till late. The event will be hosted at Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC). Get your tickets on our website. Exclusive to e27 readers, use promo code e27Subscriber to enjoy awesome savings.
Disclaimer: aCommerce, What’sNewGroup and Moxy are Ardent portfolio companies. Ardent Capital is an investor in Optimatic Pte Ltd, the parent company of e27.
Image Credit: Unsplash