Line Ventures investing to develop Thai unicorn


Line, the company behind the popular messaging app in Asia, said last week it will invest $20 million in an effort to develop the first Thai unicorn – a privately held startup valued at over $1 billion – through its Line ScaleUp incubator program, expressing confidence in Thailand’s digital talent base.

Thailand has a thriving startup scene. Investments in Thai startups slipped in 2018, however, to just $61 million, prompting LINE executives to describe the Thai start-up environment as “relatively underdeveloped.” LINE executives said the company would focus on scaling up promising startups to expand outside of Thailand and help them gain international funding. LINE launched its ScaleUp incubator in 2018.

Singapore and Indonesia are the only countries in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to produce unicorn startups. Singapore has the advantage of a developed tech sector and is a global financial hub, while Indonesia’s population of over 264 million gives it a market almost four times the size of that in Thailand.

For Thai startups to make a significant mark they need to produce innovations and applications that can appeal to users beyond Thailand. Those that can deliver those innovations may still need expertise and guidance on penetrating markets beyond the Kingdom.

Thailand’s National Start-up Committee, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, reported last week that the number of registered Thai startups had reached 1,700. Pornchai Theeravet, the deputy spokesman at the ministry, said that state banks had approved a total of  $44.7 million in funding for startups through the end of February.

The lenders included The Government Savings Bank, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Bank and Krungthai Bank. Meanwhile, scores of startups along with small and medium-sized businesses were among 144 companies received tax incentives from the National Science and Technology Development Agency during the same period.

Aside from the public and private sectors, universities are also giving support for startups. Last week, Mahidol University’s Faculty of Engineering opened a new on-campus “makerspace,” where young innovators can collaborate, and that it hopes will facilitate the development and expansion of emerging tech startups.


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