Tech startups pushed ahead by pandemic

Tech startups pushed ahead by pandemic

WBAF speakers mark angel investor trend

Investors say the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation in a broad range of sectors.
Investors say the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation in a broad range of sectors.

The pandemic is expected to prod traditional businesses into investing in technology startups to ride the wave of digital transformation, says the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF), an international organisation formed to facilitate eased financial access from startups.

"Traditional money is on its way to become smart money after the pandemic as traditional business owners become interested in being angel investors," said Baybars Altuntas, WBAF's chairman.

He was speaking at a webinar on "Radical Changes to Entrepreneurial Financing in the Post-pandemic Business Environment", recently organised by Software Park Thailand under the National Science and Technology Agency.

He said Abu Dhabi-based UAE Business Angels Association recently received 21 new applications from traditional businesses aiming to become an angel investor. They run traditional businesses, such as construction and tourism.

The trend is gathering pace in Asia too, said Mr Altuntas, who is a Turkish entrepreneur and angel investor.

They are trying discover new opportunities in startups and the early-stage equity markets after the pandemic.

According to Mr Altuntas, the pandemic could put an end to the sharing economy, such as co-working spaces as well as shared cars, bikes and accommodation.

In the post-pandemic period, startups could gravitate to smart cities, online education, healthcare and financial technology.

He urged the government to invest in digital infrastructure, including enhancing internet speed, forging fintech, healthcare and smart cities, which could support digital transformation, a better healthcare system, greater financial inclusion and equal education opportunities.

"We believe the pandemic would push every municipality or the government to consider converting cities into smart cities," said Mr Altuntas.

Data may be collected by city authorities for their own monitoring and analysis.

Facial recognition tech with body temperature checks could be deployed at train stations, airports, concerts and events to ensure better infection control, he noted.

According to him, startups will have to find ways to reach out to angel investors, pitch their projects and close deals through digital means.

"Pitching, closing deals and monitoring investments though digital means all the way by exiting and raising funds from the public will become the new normal for startups," said Mr Altuntas.

Thanapol Kongboonma, a businessman who turned an angel investor a few years ago, said the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation in broad areas, including 5G infrastructure, Internet of Things cloud, cybersecurity, automation, robotics and online platforms.

Local supply chains will be more focused than global supply chains, said Mr Thanapol, chief executive of Chan Wanich Security Printing, a manufacturer of security printed matter.

According to him, healthcare, food online entertainment, virtual visits, e-commerce, e-payment, online education and contactless services would be on the rise along with the new normal of digital transformation.

The applications of core tech, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) for agricultural analysis and insight, robotic technology for medicine and contactless dispensing, as well as AI for disease diagnosis will also gather pace.

"Startups have to focus on using technology and innovation to solve the big pain points. They need to have talent and capability to enter overseas markets," Mr Thanapol said.

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