Marcelo Bravo, chief executive officer of Oxford PharmaScience Ltd
Marcelo Bravo, chief executive officer of Oxford PharmaScience Ltd

The trials and tribulations of Thai startups

Economy February 10, 2018 01:00

By Special to The Nation

Marcelo Bravo, chief executive officer of Oxford PharmaScience Ltd, a guest speaker at SCG Entrepreneurship Forum on the topic of “The Perfect Winning Pitch” at SCG Bangkok Business Challenge @ Sasin 2018, tells The Nation about the key challenges faced by local startups amid a disruption of technologies.



May I have your point of view on Thailand's startups, especially their strengths and weaknesses? Do they in line with the global or regional trend?

 It is nice to see a nascent startup scene in Thailand. The most important element is there: people with ambition. Thailand greatest strength is its ability to attract and retail talent. At the Business Challenge the Thai teams were very diverse with talent from everywhere. People are the most important asset in a start up. The other two components that are vital are the “ideas” and the “money”. By “ideas” I mean disruptive proprietary assets, i.e. deep science and technology based inventions. Here Thailand trails behind the region, R&D investment as percentage of GDP ( and as a result patents granted) are low compared to the region and the world. This should be a strategic priority for Thailand. On the “money” side, the investment scene is slowly starting but is still modest. That solves itself easily though as great opportunities attract capital.

 

What are the key challenges of today startups, and how they should adjust or improve themselves to overcome such challenges?

 The key challenges are the same they have always been. It goes back to the three key elements: people, ideas and money. How to find world class resource ( people both inside and outside the venture) that can deliver the startup from idea to business; how to ensure your proposition is advantaged, differentiated and relevant in a competitive global environment, how to ensure capital is available to support the growth of the business. The most important thing entrepreneurs can do is start with a “great idea” and by that I mean a proposition that has customer validation, a product or service that consumers really want and need. The only way to achieve that is to involve your customers very early in the design process. Let the customer tell you what they want and need and only after you really understand that go and build it.

 

How the disruption of technologies and the emerge of digital economy affect individual startups and how startups should comply themselves and take full benefit from this technology transformation?

 Disruption, change, upheaval of established industries, that is music to the ears of the entrepreneur. That is where the opportunities lie. Entrepreneurs should be embracing the changes brought by disruptive technologies or regulation and convert those into new business opportunities.

What is your projection about the growth of startups industry both in Thailand and major markets around the world? What are key driving factors?

 The key driving factor of entrepreneurship are the growth of “problems” and the inability of current “agents”( ie established businesses or governments or NGOs) to solve those problems. 

This coupled with the ascent of disruptive technologies is driving entrepreneurship around the world and we will continue seeing an increase in the role that startups play. An entrepreneur sees a problem and converts it into an opportunity and therefore startups are becoming the agents of change, bringing innovation to the market. To make real impact at scale, however, startups need to seek partnerships with established players. In Thailand the SCG Addventures initiative is a great way for entrepreneurs and industry to interact and collaborate.

 

 May I have some bibles for success should be followed by individual startups if they want to bring the same result to their business organisation?

 

I think everyone should follow the Dream Design Surf method, ha ha!

No, seriously there are lessons from other entrepreneurs that are worth taking. Building a business is not a random process. 

You can make it easier if you have a method, ie you know what you are doing. You can read a few books and get inspired but you only really learn by doing it. Importantly the media mostly shows you the success stories and makes it look really easy. You learn most from failures and failures do not make it to the media much so the lessons are lost. 

Finding the right mentors or people that can have real experience and networks can make a huge difference so an entrepreneur has to be always looking out for those people.