Dtac's start-up incubator, dtac accelerate, held its fifth demo day last August, an event where 12 start-ups competed for three top prizes. Our start-up TourKrub won the trip to Digital Winners Asia, a pitch competition organised by Telenor in Singapore for Sep 19-21. We just got back and, despite the pressure, competing against seven start-ups from across the region taught us a lot.
Upon landing, it struck me how Singapore is really built for business. It's efficient, clean and tidy, full of gleaming buildings and all the infrastructure needed to take a business from small to big.
Our first and second days in Singapore were spent preparing and networking with the people in the start-up community, from founders to regional investors. It was mind-opening for us, getting to learn from much bigger start-ups than ours. The way they think is actually similar to our team, but they evolve in a very different environment.
In Singapore, there are more opportunities in terms of funding. But you also have to consider that the competition is very strong. It was a great opportunity to meet investors in that environment, and share what we are doing with Tourkrub.
Over three days, we attended a series of events: Slush, Digital Winners Asia, and Google Cloud Summit. Slush, a tech event, shines for the number of regional players and geeky tech companies it attracts. (I still think Thailand's Techsauce is the better event, though.) Google Cloud Summit was attended by a huge crowd though, with Google demonstrating how better IT infrastructure can provide the right environment for a data-driven company.
The highlight of our trip was the pitch day with Telenor.
That morning, we looked at the broad role of a telecommunications company. Telenor is not only a mobile network provider. The Norwegian, largely government-owned company is also focused on empowering society, trying to connect everyone so that they could enjoy better opportunities. Telenor is pushing for everyone around the world to have the same access to information as can be enjoyed in a developed country.
Another interesting session was with three investors answering our questions: What criteria do they use in looking at start-ups before investing? What kind of relationship do investors want with a start-up? How can investors be helpful after they've made their investment?
The last session before pitching was about collaboration. There are huge opportunities in term of market access if partnering with Telenor, because Telenor operates in 13 countries.
During the afternoon pitch session, I was sweating bullets. All seven teams were really great. We did our best but those from Pakistan and Bangladesh were incredibly strong. Sadly, we did not win - but the trip was a great experience overall.
Japan Leeathiwat is chief executive officer of Tourkrub, dtac accelerate batch 5.