GOOGLE Thailand yesterday kicked off its “Start-up Bootcamp”, while it unveiled two start-ups, Wongnai and Skootar, as having joined its programme to connect start-ups with engineers, product experts and executives while also connecting them with start-up founders outside Thailand.
News of the initiative came as 500 TukTuks announced that it had invested in 10 more start-ups.
Google’s role is to enable start-ups to be creative and solve problems, said Google country head Ben King.
“Google believes in the potential of start-ups. We, in fact, started there. We believe in the potential of emerging start-ups in Thailand to disrupt conventional industries, open new market segments, and drive massive growth. With your creative mindset, you identify opportunities and unmet needs,” he said.
He said the start-up ecosystems in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia had huge opportunities.
He said the region as a whole, and certainly Thailand, was under-invested at the moment compared with the opportunities available.
The opportunities in the digital economy across the region amount to US$200 billion (Bt7 trillion), according to a joint Temasek-Google report.
In Thailand, the digital economy is worth $37 billion. It is expected to grow more than six-fold in the next 10 years, thanks to advancements in the e-commerce, online travel, and online media sectors.
It is very significant opportunity. Key factors in Thailand include its 42 million Internet users, forecast to grow to 59 million in three years, and the fact that it has the second-fastest Internet speed in the region.
How to invest in this opportunity in Thailand and the region is crucial, King said.
He said Google had responded to the current opportunities in three ways. It is expanding its regional base in Singapore with new premises and its Google Launchpad Accelerator will connect start-ups with engineers, product experts, and executives while also connecting them with start-up founders outside Thailand. The company has also initiated a scale platform to help businesses grow.
“Why Google invests in start-ups is because Google was a start-up,” he said. “We were a start-up set up to solve the big problem, which was that it was really hard to find information on the Internet in general [and the] technology [we introduced] to solve this problem is the search engine.
“We did not forget where we started and how we worked to identify problems and solve them through technology.”
Meanwhile, 500 TukTuks plans to launch TukTuks II in the near future to support Thai start-ups. The TukTuks II fund will focus on investing in the seed to Series A stages of funding.
Under the TukTuks I fund, it invested in 30 start-ups. That includes the latest 10 start-ups in bBatch 3 of the initiative – Pomelo, FinAccel, FavStay, Tourkrub.co, TrustingSocial, PerroPack, Gnowbe, Asiola, Cookly and Freshket.
The fund has been closed by 500 TukTuks, with $15.4 million invested and not the Bt10 million originally planned. The fund received a lot of interest from both high-net-worth individuals and corporate investors.
With more capital committed, 500 TukTuks is moving forward at full speed.
Krating Poonpol, co-manager of 500 TukTuks, labelled his operation as the most active seed investor in Thailand and Southeast Asia. He said it still wanted to invest in around 30 more companies.
Out of 30 companies currently in its portfolio, almost 10 have received follow-on funding or are close to receiving the next round of funding.
Krating said 500 TukTuks strongly believed in the potential of Thailand and Thai people and hoped that someday there would be remarkable, global-scale start-ups from Thailand.