March 11, 2014 00:00 By Asina Pornwasin
Three operators promoting strong ecosystem, healthy competition
Tech start-ups are expected to show explosive growth this year, with three operators moving out from their encouragement programmes backed by expanded support.
DTAC and Telenor to scale DTAC Accelerate to push Thailand as the digital hub in Asia
The DTAC Accelerate programme this year is not just another competition for start-ups, but a long-term commitment to help drive innovation in the local mobile Internet ecosystem, Jon Eddy Abdullah, DTAC’s CEO, said yesterday.
“DTAC sees a strong and emerging start-up ecosystem in Thailand and great potential for the country to become a hub of digital innovation in the region. The DTAC Accelerate programme helps accelerate local start-ups’ success by helping them connect to the world,” he said.
DTAC and Telenor have expanded DTAC Accelerate this year with an investment of Bt100 million to fuel venture capital along with dedicated training and workspace resources for new start-ups to build their business.
Andrew Kvalseth, head of corporate strategy and business innovation at DTAC, said it aims to bring Thai apps and services to the world. Thailand has advantages including its emerging start-up ecosystem, a lot of opportunities and a growing market in terms of smartphones and mobile Internet usage.
This year’s budget of more than Bt100 million will support start-ups under two models – direct funding and commercialisation support – under two tracks – incubation and acceleration – to fill in the gap between the start-up and growth stages.
“We will then provide support for those that are ready to bring their product and service to international markets via our distribution and commercialisation channels. The programme will make a serious marketing effort to allow the chosen start-ups to reach DTAC customers and over 150 million customers of companies under Telenor Group worldwide,” he said.
Sigve Brekke, executive vice president and head of Asia operations for Telenor Group, said Thailand has one of the strongest hi-tech start-up communities in the region, with rapid growth in digital services and local content development.
“We think the next big online game changers could emerge right here in Thailand, and when they do, Telenor Group’s backing will open to them the global platforms and markets crucial to both domestic and international success,” he said.
Telenor Asia’s Krating Poolpol said DTAC Accelerate is designed to not only offer seed funding for start-ups but also to provide acceleration to growth companies.
The incubation track is for those who have ideas but have yet to create a product or business model and have time to attend training throughout the entire programme, while the acceleration track is for those that have developed a product and business model.
DTAC is providing support beyond mobile applications to encourage wider types including online health services, e-commerce, mobile commerce payment, online financial services, educational content, music, games, entertainment, books, online application services for SMEs, cloud applications for enterprises, and technology social ventures.
The selected start-ups will receive Bt500,000 investment each, which can increase to Bt1.5 million if they meet all the evaluation criteria.
DTAC, supported by Telenor, has three more investment partners – CyberAgent Venture with investment funds of Bt660 million, Ardent Capital with Bt300 million and Golden Gate Venture with Bt300 million.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has joined the programme to provide legal and financial consultation. World-class experts from Silicon Valley and Asia will come to mentor participants on pitching, building user experience, business models and marketing.
“The winners will get an opportunity to participate in a two-week Blackbox Connect programme in Silicon Valley and to pitch their products to VC in Singapore and Europe. We focus on success, not the number of the teams,” he said.
AIS start-up competition in its third year
Advanced Info Service kicked off the third year of the “AIS the Start-up” competition with a greater focus on recruiting incubated content partners. Categories have been expanded from only the mobile application track to online and digital contents, corporate solutions and social business.
Pairoj Waiwanijchakij, vice president for value added service, said AIS continues to run its start-up competition to recruit, invest in and support tech start-ups to the regional market.
With competition tracks expanded to cover three categories, over 100 teams are expected to join. Seven to 10 finalists will be selected for each category. The winner in each category will get Bt200,000 seed funding – Bt100,000 from AIS, Bt50,000 from InVent and Bt50,000 from KBank. AIS has also prepared Bt1 million for each team for media and marketing.
“We do not focus only on the winners. The finalists will be eyed as long as their products and services are good for commercialisation. And not only us, we will work with SingTel and our regional seed network to support them to go regional and through our networks with over 500 customers,” he said.
This year more start-ups are coming, more supporters and investors paying a lot of attention to seeding and accelerating start-ups, and the opening of the market with the high growth of mobile Internet usage.
“Start-ups are now more mature. Our support is to fulfil their needs and support their growth successfully,” he said.
True Incube continues its second batch of start-up boot camps
Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, managing director of True Incube, said it is now selecting five start-up teams out of over 12 teams to join the second batch. In two weeks, the five final teams will be unveiled. “We started the first batch in the middle of last year. We committed to continuing our strong support with the aim to roll out two to three batches per year. This year, we started earlier,” he said.
The second boot camp emphasises the categories of content, such as online education, payment, e-commerce and tools for enterprises.
“The start-up phenomenon in Thailand is more and more active. We aim to provide support and growth opportunities for Thai entrepreneurs as well as elevate the digital start-up ecosystem in Thailand,” he said.
For the first batch, six teams were selected to receive initial funding of Bt500,000 and an invitation to join an intensive 99-day boot camp. They are currently on track to commercialise their products and services. All of them have Thai investors, and four also have foreign investors.
“Five of the six teams did not have products. Once they graduated from the 99-day boot camp, they now have a product for commercialisation. It is an opportunity for new entrepreneurs and start-ups. Let’s start it up when you have an idea and dream,” he said.
By collaborating with 500 Startups, True Incube aims to support local entrepreneurs and provide them with access to global know-how to build up their business and give them the opportunity to learn from the expertise and experience of more than 200 mentors in the 500 Startups network, which covers key regions around the world.
This will enable Thai entrepreneurs to learn from the best and grow on an international level.