Proseed bridges startup gap

Proseed bridges startup gap

In an extremely competitive market, many startups in Bangkok lack the experience and business savvy to succeed and get to that next round of funding.

Mr Darnell expects Thai startup funding to hit B4.2bn this year.

A new consultancy and mentoring company, Proseed Asia, offers tools and advice to young startups to help them grow.

"Sometimes your advantage is technology or sometimes you're the first mover in the market," said Mike Darnell, founder of Proseed Asia. "Whatever the case, it's always something new, something unique, something no one has done before. Something deserving of an acceleration programme that respects the uniqueness of the effort is what Proseed delivers."

During 2015-17, funding raised by Thai startups rose 300%, reaching more than 3.5 billion baht last year. Assuming the growth trajectory remains stable, funding levels should hit 4.2 billion baht in 2018, Mr Darnell said.

He said higher government investment in promoting startups is promising, especially for those that can benefit from the full range of measures put in place as part of the Thailand 4.0 initiative.

Support like a five-year exemption from corporate income tax for startups and tax exemptions for co-working spaces is truly having a positive impact on growth, said Mr Darnell.

Yet many startups lack the practical business experience to face the daunting challenges of a fiercely competitive market.

Proseed Asia, established in October 2018, is an accelerator programme that nurtures Bangkok startups with mentoring and help in acquiring funding. The company selects only innovation-focused businesses incorporated in Asean looking to raise no more than US$300,000 (9.86 million baht) for the programme.

"As founders and operators of businesses and startups, all our mentors know just how amazing it can be to work on cool and innovative ideas, and believing you're going to make a difference and change the world," he said.

GROWING FROM A SEED

To be successful, Thai startups need mentoring in sales management, marketing, finance and human resources development, skills that make accelerator programmes highly valuable.

In addition, Thai startups need access to capital sources that understand their business and are interested in doing business with them.

Proseed startup mentors consist of a diverse group of professionals with a wealth of experience working in Asean. Mr Darnell brings his own record of managing Vimi, an app development and web design company.

Another mentor, Sutheep Singhsachakul, brings experience in IT as director of Intellect Systems. Anthony Pash, founder of Gogoboon, a crowdfunding site for startups, brings his experience in venture capital and private equity.

At the heart of Proseed's mentorship is the Bespoke Acceleration Programme. This includes a schedule of weekly meetings with applicants to provide solicited advice and counselling; develop marketing and business strategies; establish feasibility, financial and corporate planning, and legal and tax consulting; and prepare and validate an investor pitch.

Upon completion of the programme, applicants present the investor pitch to a quorum of 10 Proseed mentors. This precedes a Proseed pitching dinner, during which successful applicants meet a select group of Proseed investors for the opportunity to pitch their startup to them.

"Venture capitalists and investors are more than happy to partner with Proseed Asia, who can feed them pre-qualified opportunities," Mr Darnell said. "The startups we meet are happy to receive bespoke mentorships tailored to their unique needs, instead of the one-size-fits-all acceleration that is most commonly offered to them. They appreciate the opportunity to speak to mentors."


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