Big future for Thai tech startups

Big future for Thai tech startups

Thai tech startups are in a good position to expand throughout Southeast Asia as the local ecosystem proceeds to the next level, says Singtel Inno8 Ventures Pte.

Mr Hardless, head of Singtel Inno8 Ventures, likes what he sees in Thailand.

The corporate venture capital arm of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) said the company is eyeing strategic investments in cybersecurity, digital marketing, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence globally.

"Local startups that operate business to business to consumer models under Advanced Info Service (AIS)'s startup program network are especially promising.

Some of these companies have the technology to scale regionally and internationally," said Edgar Hardless, chief executive of Singtel Inno8 Ventures Pte.

Thailand's local startup scene has expanded and diversified during the last five years. Today, the industry is in the expansion stage. Companies are seeking Series B or Series C funding; compared to the past, most only reached Series A or seed funding.

Local startups looking to expand should develop products that solve regional problems, since the domestic market is still too small, Mr Hardless suggested.

Thailand needs a pool of experienced mentors to invest and share what they have learnt from failure.

Mr Hardless said there are active corporate venture capital funds in Thailand, and there will be more soon. For example, airlines need to find new revenue streams, and ways to develop strategic technology.

He said Thailand is showing its commitment to supporting local startups, just like the Singaporean government is.

However, Singapore provides matching funds for public-private joint startup investments investing in building infrastructure- fiber optic, IoT, special areas for autonomous vehicles, and an open data set for Application Programing Interface.

Singtel Inno8 invested its US$250 million fund on technologies that are strategic for its core telecom business.

"We will eventually bring those startups to Singtel's business units," Mr Hardless said.

Some of these high priority technologies are cybersecurity, digital marketing/advertising, and IoT.

The firm is also interested in technologies that improve customer experience, like chatbots, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, digital content personalisation, and mobile money. Technologies that enhance our network capabilities are also essential, Mr Hardless said. The firm aims to invest from $100,000 (3.4 million baht) to $20 million per company in startups on seed to early growth stages.

As a corporate venture capital firm, he said Innov8's strategic investment can help local startups access a broader market. In particular, it can open the door to Singtel Group's 600 million Asian and African customers. Mr Hardless said half of its investment goes to Silicon Valley as its has strong innovation as well as 20% in Israel and 30% in Asia.

In the past six years, Singtel has invested in 60 companies, two of which are in Thailand.

"The more I work with Silicon Valley and Israel-based innovators, the more I realise the future of technology is in augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and Robotic Process Automation -- technologies that help corporations work more efficiently by handling repetitive tasks and working more efficiently," he said.

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