Thailand aiming for nearly $1 billion in startup investments

The National Innovation Agency has set a goal of attracting nearly $1 billion in investments for startups by the year 2020 believing that government policies and incentives coupled with the Kingdom’s competitive advantages will make that target achievable.

“Given our geographical location, large population and variety of industrial sectors, Thailand can be an investment hub for startups in this region,” said Pun-Arj Chairatana, director of the National Innovation Agency, which is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Speaking at the two-day Echelon Thailand 2017 seminar last week, Pun-Arj said Thailand is home to about 1,000 startups already, and those firms have attracted over $200 million in venture capital so far. He predicted that the number of startups would double to nearly 2,000 by 2018.

Startups are an essential element in Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to build an economy and society that grows through innovation, creativity, advanced and green industries, and research and development. Creating an environment that supports those attributes would provide fertile ground for startups, which are often the source of new ideas, innovations, products and services.

Several large Thai corporations, particularly in communications technology, as well as global corporations have been funding ‘incubators’ for startups in Thailand in hope of finding new ideas and businesses that will be successful as well as contributing to the evolution of their industries.

Pun-Arj said that investors from China and Japan have been taking an increasing interest in Thailand’s startup landscape. The National Innovation Agency is preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that will allow them to collaborate on startups.

Another MoU is in the works with one of China’s leading technology companies for a program to collaborate on a startup accelerator, which is similar to an incubator. The National Innovation Agency established a similar agreement recently with the government of Israel.

Representing United States-based Creative Ventures, a venture capital firm, at the Echelon seminar, Champ Suthipongchai said startups that develop innovative technologies that make day-to-day life easier for the elderly could provide solutions to a looming labor shortage.

To support the environment and funding for startups, the Stock Exchange of Thailand has plans to establish a special bourse where startups can list and attract funds from investors. This exchange would have much easier requirements for listing than the regular exchange, in recognition that many startups are too young to meet the financial and reporting information officials demand for the main bourse.