With a population size of 68 million, Thailand has seen its fair share of political unrest in recent years. Under the leadership of a military junta, the nation has experienced many an ousting of people in power with the most recent being that of Yingluck Shinawatra, the 28th and first female Prime Minster of Thailand.

Despite such revolutions and protests against the government, the Thai startup ecosystem is now immersive, diverse and thriving.

The Thai population is one that catches onto new technology readily and maintains a high level of activity in the social media sphere.

With the fast-growing nature of Thailand’s startup ecosystem, we think that the Thai startup ecosystem has much potential to develop and grow.

Thailand is an early adopter of technologies and social media

  • TechSauce reports a 148% mobile penetration in 2016 up from 107% (2010 figures) with 49% smartphone penetration and 83 million 3G subscribers.
  • Social media thrives in the country – with the population of users on social media platforms such as Facebook, Line, Instagram and Twitter hitting 35 million, 33 million, 2 million and 4.5 million respectively.
  • Thailand has established itself as the world’s third largest social media user by country.
  • 37% of the total population access mobile applications daily.
  • M-commerce platforms have grown immensely in popularity as 71% of smartphone users in the country report making online purchases more than twice a month with 90% planning to engage in online transactions in the future.
  • Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) commerce has seen massive developments in recent years. Terence Pang, the COO of the P2P marketplace Shopee, mentions that

“The Shopee platform helps address the gap in support for merchants who are selling on Facebook or Instagram but struggle with aspects such as getting customers, payment processes and delivery.”

Thailand startup techsauce

The Techsauce Summit held annually in Thailand boasts to be the melting pot for leaders in technology, venture capital, corporations and startups. (Photo by TechSauce)

Accompanied by the advent of events such as the Techsauce Summit 2016, organised by the news site TechSauce and the venture subsidiary of SCB – Digital Ventures – Thailand has begun taking steps to nurture local entrepreneurship and innovation.

We’ve seen the establishment of HUBBA Thailand, a co-working space for entrepreneurs that boasts to be a ‘Productive Space for Creative Thinkers’, offering special services such as business and user experience consultancy services as well as venture capital networking opportunities.

Thailand startup coworking space

HUBBA is a family of three co-working spaces for startup entrepreneurs, innovators and professionals, providing full-service meeting rooms, active community members, co-working areas as well as professional business support and training. (Photo by Tech In Asia)

Startup growth in Thailand has grown exponentially :

  • the number of funded startups rising from 3 in 2012 to over 72 in June 2016 as the total funding raised solely by Thai startups hits an all-time high of almost US$4 million.
  • The number of venture capitalists and corporations have also increased greatly from only one in 2012 to a staggering 60 firms and more.

In August 2016, the Thai government made plans to dedicate a venture fund worth US$570 million for the local startup ecosystem and aims to grow the community from 2,500 start-ups to a projected 10,000 within two years.

Currently, funding is headed by angel investors such as Ardent Capital, CyberAgent, Inspire as well as 500 Tuktuks by 500 Startups.  President of the Thailand Development and Research Institute, Mr Somkiat Tangkitvanich, has also hinted for policymakers to reduce government regulations that stifle growth in the technology and startup sector.

Fintech is noticeably a favourite of the Thai startup community. An example is Everex, a Fintech and Blockchain development company with the goal of working towards a bank-less world that offers cross-border money transfer with over 600 users, 1 million bath in volume and a total of 400 transactions mainly in Myanmar.

We also took much interest in Finnomena, the largest investment content platform in Thailand specializing in providing advice on the fundamentals of financial investments as well as portfolio management and insights. These two startups fall under the top 6 growing start-ups from the TechSauce Summit 2016.

Corporations have also shown themselves to be a driving force for the Thai startup ecosystem. A 3-month programme pulling together the best of innovators, mentors and investors into a localized space, DTAC Accelerate boasts a total funding of US$ 2.8 million with a supporting fund of US$ 14,400 to US$ 43,000 per team.

With commercialization support from the telecommunications giant Telenor as well as legal, accounting and financial support from audit and consulting company PwC, the DTAC Accelerate programme serves as a testament to one of the ways in which large enterprises can play a part in the growth of smaller ones. Other projects include the unveiling of the digital hub project named Digital True Park by mobile operator True Corporation worth half a billion dollars.

Thailand startup digital true park

The Digital True Park in Bangkok, Thailand is set to open its doors in 2018. (Photo by Bangkok Post)

Thailand’s Startup Future

Thailand has established itself as a growing start-up ecosystem in the region. With sizeable backers such as Telenor, it is with confidence that we foresee only positive growth of the community.

The tech-savvy Thai population also offers a favourable testing ground for social commerce, Fintech and other innovations.

Events such as the Techsauce Summit and Startup Weekend Bangkok will continue to foster entrepreneurship and technological innovation.

However, the country still has a low level of porosity regionally since most startups are not going global as of yet.

Get extensive coverage on the start-up ecosystems in Thailand as well as in other ecosystems across Asia with Innovation Is Everywhere.