LINE executive calls Thai startup scene a ‘gold mine’

Although Thailand is trailing some of its neighbors in its number of digital startups, the head of investment for LINE Corporation called the Kingdom’s startup scene a ‘gold mine’ of opportunities that should start reaping the rewards in five to ten years.

“This is a unique market that requires a lot of localization. At the same time, it’s unsaturated in many ways and at a stage where investments in the right places could really hit the right spot,” said Jayden Kang, director of Line’s startup investment program ScaleUp.

Based in Japan, LINE Corporation is a subsidiary of search engine firm Naver Corporation of South Korea. Its LINE messaging and chatting application is the most popular in Thailand in its field.

“Thailand is literally a gold mine for new opportunities,” Kang said.

Thailand’s government is prioritizing the digital economy and promoting innovation under its 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0. Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, said the government expects to have 10,000 Thai startups by 2037, with at least 60 percent of them in the field of innovative connectivity such as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

At the moment, Thailand has over 1,000 startups, but just 37 are IoT related, he added.

Kang, however, sees that as a green field where startups can grow and flourish without being crowded out by too much competition. That should appeal to venture capital investors who are searching for promising entrepreneurs and young companies in the startup ecosystem.

LINE is backing up its optimism with action. Kang said the company would invest $20 million in Thai startups by the end of this year through its LINE Ventures fund.