Fos­ter to Prosper: nur­tur­ing home­grown tech tal­ent to tackle the na­tion’s prob­lems

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents -

dtac ac­cel­er­ate, widely re­garded as the na­tion’s lead­ing in­cu­ba­tor due to its strong train­ing cur­ricu­lum and men­tor­ing by lead­ing ex­perts from Sil­i­con Val­ley, launched the fourth sea­son of its startup in­cu­ba­tor pro­gram this March. It can count some of the most suc­cess­ful Thai star­tups in re­cent years among its alumni, many of whom have man­aged to raise funds from ven­ture cap­i­tal (VC) firms and spread their wings out­side the na­tion’s bor­ders.

“I think the lo­cal ecosys­tem has de­vel­oped very rapidly – three years ago when we launched it was al­most non ex­is­tent,” said Andrew Kvalseth, EVP, Head of Strategy & In­no­va­tion Group, dtac. “Ac­cess to qual­ity men­tor­ship has im­proved thanks to us and a few oth­ers, but also a lot of Thai star­tups have re­ceived VC fund­ing, mean­ing that Thai­land as a whole has be­come more at­trac­tive for VCs in find­ing tal­ent and po­ten­tial fu­ture ac­qui­si­tions.”

dtac’s startup and in­no­va­tion group op­er­ates on a be­lief that the more peo­ple have ac­cess to the in­ter­net, the bet­ter the so­ci­ety be­comes, the more GDP grows and prob­lems get solved.

“When we sur­veyed the peo­ple to find out whether the price of in­ter­net ac­cess was too high, it turned out that many peo­ple sim­ply didn’t have a com­pelling enough rea­son to use it. A lot of that has changed with LINE and Face­book, even if it’s sim­ple com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Of course, both of those are for­eign com­pa­nies and we be­lieve that once more lo­cal en­trepreneurs get in­volved with star­tups, they will start solv­ing lo­cal prob­lems and giv­ing peo­ple more rea­sons to use the in­ter­net on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.”

Kvalseth sees the increased VC fund­ing as the first level of val­i­da­tion in at­tract­ing tal­ent and cap­i­tal, but says that Thai­land has yet to see any big ex­its. While there have been a few “de­cent sized” ones in the past by the likes of Agoda (ac­quired by Price­line in 2007 for an undis­closed sum) and En­sogo (ac­quired by Liv­ingSo­cial in 2011 for an undis­closed sum) there has been a gap in re­cent years. The rea­son for this, he be­lieves, is that at the time there were a core set of en­trepreneurs who are now fo­cused on other ven­tures and it will be awhile un­til these ma­te­ri­alise into some­thing large enough for a big exit.

dtac sees its role within the ecosys­tem as a key en­abler for star­tups at the be­gin­ning of their life­cy­cles and find­ing early suc­cess. This in­volves bring­ing ex­pe­ri­enced men­tors and VC cap­i­tal from over­seas in the kingdom, but also in as­sist­ing the lo­cal star­tups with their mar­ket­ing and distri­bu­tion. By building a min­i­mal vi­able prod­uct (MVP) and dis­tribut­ing that to dtac’s 30 mil­lion cus­tomers, the star­tups are able to prove that their prod­uct works and is able to gain trac­tion on the mar­ket, which in turn helps them raise fur­ther cap­i­tal from the VCs.

As far as startup ideas go, the ma­jor­ity of them in­volve in tak­ing con­cepts that have worked in other mar­kets and es­sen­tially cloning them.

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