True Digital Park lures startups

True Digital Park lures startups

Work Space to incubate wannabe Thai unicorns

Thanasorn: Support for tech youngsters
Thanasorn: Support for tech youngsters

True Digital Park has opened its Work Space, a co-working and office zone with capacity for 4,500 workers, in a bid to provide an affordable area for startups to develop and attract venture capital funding.

The move aims to direct Thailand towards becoming an innovation hub of Southeast Asia and possibly incubate a prized unicorn -- a startup valued at US$1 billion.

"We spent over 600 million baht to build the first phase of True Digital Park, which will strengthen Thailand's startup ecosystem comprising startups, corporates, technology exchanges, digital infrastructure facility funding and networking opportunities," said Thanasorn Jaidee, president of True Digital Park.

The park is located at Sukhumvit Soi 101 near Punnawithi skytrain station. The first phase of the project is now open in three areas, including the 77,000-square-metre Work Space, the 30,000-sq-m Lifestyle Space and the Living Space that has condominiums and a residential area.

"Tech youngsters need the work and living integration that this Digital Park will provide in an environment to support their projects," Mr Thanasorn said.

The co-working space can support up to 600 startups with individual seats and working spaces that charge a monthly membership fee per person. This space will attract digital nomads and small startups and entrepreneurs.

The office space offers a fixed office for bigger startups and charges one membership fee for the whole space.

The innovation and creator space is where big companies will open development labs. Google will launch its Academy, the second in the world apart from one in Britain.

Amazon Web Services will support cloud consulting, while Huawei will open a lab of its own and Ricoh will offer digital printing. Krungthai Bank and UOB will work on fintech and artificial intelligence (AI).

Wongnai will open its first co-working space for cooking, and MuSpace will develop a centre for advanced materials, integrated electronics and sensors.

Thailand e-Center for China business matching, CP Innovation, True Digital Academy and King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang will work together on AI and 3D printing technology.

The park also offers an events and business service space providing government service support for startups. The National Innovation Agency will open a cyber district to facilitate smart visas and corporate registrations.

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency will offer grant funding, and the Electronic Transactions Development Agency will support e-commerce and cybersecurity.

In addition, the startups will have the opportunity to meet with venture capital firms and angel investors, specifically 14 VCs that have about $500 million in investment in Southeast Asia.

Thailand has potential as a digital innovation hub for the region, Mr Thanasorn said, citing the Global Innovation Index (GII) by Cornell's SC Johnson College of Business, INSEAD and WIPO. Thailand ranked 44th in GII's 2018 study, leaping seven places in a year.

The True Digital Park building near Sukhumvit Soi 101. The park invested 600 million baht in the first phase.

On the other hand, Thailand's startup success rates remain relatively low compared with those of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

"We are not just an office or co-working space, but with a whole ecosystem we hope to increase success rates for local startups and provide a landing pad for foreign investment," Mr Thanasorn said.

WeWork, the international co-working space, will open a 5,000-sq-m space at the park, its third branch in Thailand.

True Digital Park's members and partners are in digital content, social media, e-commerce and robotics, among other fields.

In terms of demographics, members are 57% male and 43% female. Over 60% of members work in the digital and technology business; 40% in engineering, IT, technology and innovation; 15% in technician support; 6% in digital marketing; 25% in management and business development; and 14% in support functions such as accounting, administration and human resources.

True Digital Park aims to break even in 5-7 years, thanks to government support from the Thailand 4.0 initiative and big corporate demand for domestic tech innovation.

The goal is to stimulate a greater supply of startups and expand existing ones to make Thailand a strong regional competitor in the tech market.

The park offers offices for 1,300-1,500 baht per sq m.

"Our Digital Park is gathering up to 4,500 digital workers, mostly youngsters, in its facilities," Mr Thanasorn said, adding that the park's second phase will open in the next two years at an investment of more than 600 million baht.

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