NIA touts startup programme

NIA touts startup programme

Plan to build the 'new economic warrior'

Pun-Arj Chairatana, National Innovation Agency (NIA) director at the Startup Thailand 2019. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
Pun-Arj Chairatana, National Innovation Agency (NIA) director at the Startup Thailand 2019. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

The government will continue its efforts to promote Thailand as a global startup investment destination, bringing together Asean collaboration and attracting global venture capital to the region, says the National Innovation Agency (NIA).

"Thailand's startup scene is real, not just some fantasy, as evident by the large size of investments in local startups but also smaller deals for lesser startups in pre-series A funding," said Pun-Arj Chairatana, executive director of the NIA.

The agency will continue its three-year-old policy of building a "new economic warrior" by increasing awareness of startup businesses and increasing the number of corporate venture capital to grow the funding pool to 50 billion baht (US$1.2 billion).

To continue this momentum, the NIA will this year focus on multiple sectors of startups which include MAR (music, art and recreation) tech startups as this can serve tourism and Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) as well as entertainment, streaming and over-the-top services.

It will also promote deep tech which uses advanced technology like artificial intelligence in health, food, and agriculture. Deep tech startups rely on major technological breakthroughs and require long-term investment, which is why Thailand has very few. However, 150 startups out of a total of 750 are MAR startups.

In order to simulate the growth of startups, the country needs to position itself as a landing pad for global startups by creating a welcoming startup environment through smart visas and the Startup Act.

"If we have more foreign startups here by helping them to collaborate with local startups and co-found new ventures that will benefit the country," Mr Pun-Arj said.

Meanwhile, the NIA is also collaborating with key cities that can be landing pads for local startups to expand to overseas markets.

Currently, it has around 10 cities in Chile, the Netherlands, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Portugal and Japan.

NIA will hold Startup Thailand, a five-day exhibition and conference under the theme Startup Nation Bangkok Innovation Corridor for its fourth consecutive year.

This year, activities will be spread across nine locations in Bangkok covering the NIA, The Knowledge Exchange, Hangar by DTAC Accelerate, AIS design centre, Siam Innovation District, Thailand Creative Design Centre (TCDC), True Digital Park, Growfish and NAPLAB.

Each place will have their own topic of interest to attract specific attendees such as the TCDC for MAR tech and The Knowledge Exchange for deep tech. The event also includes a hackathon and will attract over 50 global venture capital firms, as well as world-renowned speakers.

Moreover, the event will host the Southeast Startup Assembly and Asean Plus to facilitate collaboration in startups and innovation in the region including Japan, China and South Korea.

Pariwat Wongsamran, director for innovative entrepreneurship development of the NIA, said Bangkok is ranked in the top 10 cities where startups can open new businesses, according to startupguild.com.

Bangkok is "not yet a mature ecosystem", but it has the potential to become "dynamic and strong" if it addresses its weaknesses, according to a 2018 report by non-profit organisation Enpact.

Lagging behind Singapore and on a competitive level with Bengaluru, India, Bangkok ranked second in the report's Startup Friendliness Index (SFI) for emerging economies.


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