Thailand, renowned for its diverse culture, stunning landscapes, and mouthwatering cuisine, is fast becoming a sought-after destination for entrepreneurs and startups. With a burgeoning digital economy and a vibrant startup scene, Thailand is emerging as a potent player in Southeast Asia’s startup landscape. In this comprehensive piece, we’ll delve into the intricacies of Thailand’s startup ecosystem, unveiling key statistics, discussing the advantages, and examining potential challenges.
The Lay of the Land: An Overview of Thailand’s Startup Scene
There are approximately 5,000 active startups in Thailand, based on data from the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI). Most of these startups are located in Bangkok, the country’s capital and primary economic hub.
The Thai startup landscape is diverse, spanning numerous sectors. However, some industries have seen a particular surge in startup activity. These include e-commerce, fintech, and foodtech, driven by the rising trend of digitization and the evolving consumer behavior.
When it comes to funding, Thai startups have been performing well. As per Techsauce’s Thailand Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2019, Thai startups raised over $3.3 billion across 103 deals in 2019. This marked a significant increase from $2.5 billion raised in 2018 and a testament to the vibrant investor sentiment towards the Thai startup scene.
Prominent Players in the Thai Startup Scene
A number of Thai startups have gained regional and even global recognition. These include Agoda, a world-renowned travel booking platform; aCommerce, a leading e-commerce enabler in Southeast Asia; and Get, a ride-hailing and lifestyle services platform.
Apart from these, various organizations play a significant role in supporting the ecosystem. Notably, True Digital Park, Thailand’s largest tech and startup hub, offers a comprehensive support system for startups, including co-working spaces, business services, and access to a vibrant community of entrepreneurs.
List of Thai Unicorn Startups:
- Flash Express is a logistics company that provides same-day delivery services in Thailand. It was founded in 2017 by Komsan Lee and is now the largest private courier in Thailand. Flash Express has raised over US$150 million in funding from investors such as Buer Capital, SCB 10X, and Alibaba.
- Ascend Money is a fintech company that provides digital payments and financial services in Thailand. It was founded in 2013 by Supachai Chearavanont and is now the largest mobile wallet in Thailand. Ascend Money has raised over US$150 million in funding from investors such as Temasek Holdings, Alibaba, and Warburg Pincus.
- Bitkub is a cryptocurrency exchange that was founded in 2017 by Jirayut Srupsrisopa. It is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Thailand and has over 2 million users. Bitkub has raised over US$50 million in funding from investors such as Animoca Brands, Sequoia Capital India, and 500 Startups.
Interesting statistics about startups and the startup ecosystem in Thailand:
- The average age of a startup founder in Thailand is 32.
- The most popular sectors for startups in Thailand are technology, education, and healthcare.
- The Thai government has invested over $100 million in startup programs since 2016.
- There are over 100 startup incubators and accelerators in Thailand.
- The Thai startup ecosystem has attracted over $1 billion in investment from foreign investors.
Government Initiatives to Boost the Startup Ecosystem
The Thai government has played an instrumental role in fostering the startup ecosystem. It has launched several initiatives aimed at promoting innovation, attracting investment, and fostering entrepreneurship.
One of the major initiatives is the Thailand 4.0 policy, which seeks to transform the country into an innovation-driven economy. Under this policy, the government has launched a $570 million venture fund to invest in startups and support innovation.
Additionally, the BOI provides attractive incentives for startups, including tax breaks and eased visa regulations for foreign entrepreneurs and tech experts.
Advantages of Launching a Startup in Thailand
- Growing Digital Economy: Thailand has one of the fastest-growing digital economies in Southeast Asia, offering ample opportunities for digital and tech startups.
- Strategic Location: Thailand’s central location in Southeast Asia makes it an ideal gateway to the region’s booming markets.
- Government Support: The Thai government’s strong commitment to fostering the startup ecosystem, as demonstrated by initiatives like Thailand 4.0, provides a supportive environment for startups.
- Vibrant Consumer Market: With a population of nearly 70 million and rising internet and smartphone penetration, Thailand offers a large, digitally savvy consumer market.
- Low cost of living: The cost of living in Thailand is very low, which means that startups can save money on things like rent, salaries, and office space.
- Access to a young and growing workforce: Thailand has a young and growing population, which means that there is a large pool of potential employees for startups.
Challenges in the Thai Startup Ecosystem
While Thailand’s startup ecosystem offers plenty of opportunities, it also comes with its own set of challenges:
- Regulatory Complexity: Navigating the legal and regulatory environment can be complex, especially for foreign startups.
- Language Barrier: While English is widely spoken in business circles, the prevalence of Thai in daily life and local business dealings can pose challenges for foreign entrepreneurs.
- Limited Access to Early-Stage Funding: Despite the growth in startup funding, access to early-stage funding can be challenging, as most investment is concentrated in later stages.
- Talent Gap: While Thailand has a robust pool of talent, there’s a gap when it comes to advanced tech skills and entrepreneurial experience.
- Corruption: Thailand has a high level of corruption, which can make it difficult for startups to do business.
Here are some additional tips for starting a startup in Thailand:
- Do your research: Before you start your startup, it is important to do your research and understand the Thai market. This includes understanding the competition, the target market, and the regulatory environment.
- Network with other entrepreneurs: Networking with other entrepreneurs can be a great way to get advice, learn from others, and find potential partners. There are a number of networking events and organizations in Thailand that you can join.
- Get involved in the startup community: Getting involved in the startup community can be a great way to learn about the latest trends, meet potential investors, and find mentors. There are a number of startup communities in Thailand that you can join.
- Be patient: It takes time to build a successful startup. Don’t expect to become an overnight success. Be patient and persistent, and you will eventually achieve your goals.
Thailand’s startup ecosystem, with its diverse opportunities and dynamic growth, is an exciting arena for entrepreneurs and startups. However, it also presents unique challenges that require careful navigation. By understanding the nuances of Thailand’s startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs can effectively leverage the country’s advantages, tackle the challenges, and contribute to the ongoing growth of this promising startup hub.