In a panel moderated by e27’s CEO Mohan Belani, Thai tech startup ecosystem leaders Amarit Charoenphan, Patai Padungtin, Krating Poonpol and Oranuch Lerdsuwankij came together to talk about what has transpired in the last two to three years, and what the ecosystem should strive towards.
In Thailand, the three biggest telecom companies (AIS, dtac and True) have all created their own branded accelerator programme. “Telcos are very supportive,” said Padungtin, Principal and Evangelist, Builk, who added that it would be good to have more support from big conglomerates.
Charoenphan, Co-founder, HUBBA, added that there should be more support from the government. After all, if the tech startup community in Thailand is able to accomplish so much without support from its government — a good number of co-working spaces and startup schools across the country, a lot of technology companies, community meetups and events every month — the possibilities are endless if it receives help in the form of grants, and access to information and key stakeholders.
Poonpol, Founder, Disrupt University shared that the people of the Thai startup community need to unite their hearts and stop taking sides according to past associations with different startup schools or brands. He said, “There will be three colours (referring to the different telcos), and this is what I don’t want to see.” Not taking sides is not just a moral decision; it also allows the entrepreneur to discover new opportunities by being open-minded about potential partnerships.
When asked about opportunities in the other cities outside of Bangkok, like Khon Kaen, Chiangmai and Phuket, Charoenphan said that it was an “eye-opening” experience visiting those markets for Echelon satellites. “When you’re in Bangkok,” he said, “you think that all the tech is in this city.” However, Phuket, for example, is hot for travel technology, while Chiangmai is home to digital nomads, and Khon Kaen has massive potential for the ad tech industry.
The main issue is that many of these startups in other cities in Thailand are not plugged into resources available in Bangkok. They are, like Charoenphan said, hidden and rare gems.
Additionally, Thailand is also in need of more angel investments. Lerdsuwankij, Co-founder, Thumbsup opined that compared with other countries, Thailand has fewer angel investors that focus on startups. By encouraging angel investment, more early-stage companies are able to work their way towards the top. “… We need to educate the market and expand the community to be bigger,” she said.
There should also be more startups that are brave enough to delve into societal issues like education and healthcare (or the lack thereof). Only by setting their sights on such disruptive areas can startups help Thailand as a country grow as well.