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Builk, Ookbee are Start-ups of the Year

The Nation and experts evaluate those who made made waves during 2013

Tech start-ups are currently flourishing rapidly in Thailand. There are a lot of global venture capitals, especially from Silicon Valley, who have come to have pitching sessions with Thai tech start-ups throughout this year. There are several Thai tech start-ups attending training in Silicon Valley.

The Nation investigated the performance of Thai tech start-ups and also had discussions with experts in many fields on the start-up ecosystem, including IT executives, business management executives, tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. They covered three main criteria - feature and technology roadmap, business model and sustainability, and opportunity go to abroad.

Builk Asia, a software firm that runs Builk.com - a social-media site for the construction industry, and Ookbee, an e-publication platform provider are two Thai tech start-ups selected by ICT and business management experts as the "Start-ups of the Year". Builk.com and Ookbee are now starting to reap the benefits with their plan to take their ventures overseas.

Builk.com is sustainable

Manoo Ordeedolchest, the honorary president of the Association of Thai Computer Industry (ATCI), said that considering the three main criteria, Builk.com is the Start-up of the Year. The business model of Builk.com is tied in with the real sectors in the large industry, construction and real estate industry. Importantly, the business model of Builk.com has not been challenged by its competitors. As the first mover in this market, Builk.com has gained advantages entering the global market and its business model is strong and sustainable.

"The other Thai tech start-ups - Ookbee, Computerlogy, Wongnai.com, ShopSpot and Molome - are also good but some of their businesses already exist in the market, which may be a disadvantage for them in terms of business sustainability and going global," said Manoo.

Meanwhile, Thanachart Numnonda, president of IMC Institute, ICT market research and ICT training institute, also agreed that the business model of Builk.com and Ookbee are strong and solid for revenue stream.

"Computerlogy and ShopSpot are catching up with the trend and they have business opportunities and a chance to go global. Both of them are funded by venture capitals," said Thanachart.

Similarly, Weera Chearanaipanit, vice president and head of SME Network Marketing Development at Kasikornbank, said that the service model of Builk.com is to address those of enterprises in the real sector, construction industry. Its service helps Thai enterprises in the real estate industry, with small-to-medium-size businesses able to save cost on software investment while also increasing their business performance and productivity.

"The cloud model of Builk.com, free-with-advertising, for software service has attracted a lot of stake holders in the construction industry to plug in so that in the future it can turn to an e-market place easily. Also, it has huge databases for construction businesses that can benefit the stake holders in the construction industry's ecosystem such as construction materials, banks, and government. Its business model can be developed to be a sustainable business in the future," said Weera.

Ookbee is real revenue

The Start-up of the Year should be Ookbee, as Okbee has a solid business model that can generate a revenue stream consistently, importantly Ookbee has already been present in overseas markets, said Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, president of Thai E-Commerce Association and founder and managing director of Rakuten Tarad.com.

"It represents Thai start-ups on the global stage," said Pawoot.

Apisilp Trunganont, president of Thai Webmaster Association agreed that Ookbee is the Start-up of the Year because Ookbee has positioned itself as an e-book platform provider for publishers not only in Thailand but also made it easier to expand this business model to overseas markets.

"E-book is growing because of the availability of mobile devices, smartphones and tablets that are encourage more people to read books on devices. It means the business opportunity of Ookbee is bright," said Apislip.

Supachai Parchariyanon, managing director at MCFiVa, a digital agency, said that Ookbee is "Start-up of the Year" because of its technology roadmap, business model, and opportunity to go international. It has already accomplished these. Ookbee has a clear business model that makes money and it has already expanded its business model abroad.

However, Jay Jootar, chief executive officer of the VC Group and a lecturer at the College of Management, Mahidol University, picked Wongnai.com as Start-up of the Year, as Wongnai.com's features go beyond Web reviewing of restaurants. It offers a social app to build the community of restaurant reviews, which in the long term will help create stickiness and lock-in for Wongnai.com

"Even though Wongnai.com currently focuses on the domestic market and seems to not have a regional ambition, but if its features [the review functions] address consumer needs, it could easily go abroad in the future. The business model of Wongnai.com is based on advertising and is quite plain, but it can scale to other markets and expand to new nearby features such as location-based services," said Jay.

He said that Ookbee has a distinguished business model, with revenue shared from each book sold over its e-book platform. But Ookbee's feature is still plain and it is not able to take maximum advantage of technology. In future, if Ookbee does not have new technology and innovation, it might lose its existing customers and also lose the chance to gain new customers.

Successful start-ups

Ookbee

Ookbee is continuing to move forward with its goal to reach Bt1 billion in revenue by the end of 2017. It also will continue investing Bt10 million to Bt15 million in neighbouring countries.

After successfully providing an e-publication platform for two and a half years, Ookbee recently launched two new platforms - "Ookbee" and "OokbeeME". The Ookbee platform will focus on pocketbooks, while OokbeeMee will focus on selling subscriptions for magazines.

Ookbee has been successful in providing e-book services to publishers and mobile operators in both the local and regional markets. It currently has more than 4 million users, most of whom are in Thailand, but the number of users in neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore is also rising. Ookbee is also starting to make its presence felt in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Company: Ookbee

Service: E-bookstore service

Started: December 2010

Targeted revenue in 2013: Bt150 million

Available: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam

Investor: Bt60 million from InTouch InVent venture-capital project

Builk.com

Builk Asia, a software firm that runs Builk.com - a social-media site for the construction industry - would be going global next year with its plan to become a marketplace for companies in the construction industry's supply chain.

Builk.com makes money from advertising, but its plans to offer a new marketplace service set to be launched next year should generate at least 50-per-cent of the revenue by 2015.

Contractors and suppliers can meet and make deals at Builk.com, which is already providing free service to about 2,000 companies.

This year, Builk.com has had transactions worth a total of Bt5 billion. It aims to increase this to Bt30 billion once its launches the marketplace service.

It is planning to take the Builk.com software to Indonesia first and then to Australia. Patai said that by the end of this year, Builk.com's revenue should be between Bt6 million and Bt7 million, of which 30 per cent will come from advertising, 40 per cent from market research and 30 per cent from licensed software.

By 2014, Builk Asia expects to grow by more than 100 per cent with four streams of revenue: advertising on Builk.com, licensing software overseas, conducting market research, as well as providing a marketplace for the construction industry.

By 2015, it expects revenue to reach US$1 million [Bt30 million], 50 per cent of which should come from the marketplace business.

It is moving on three tracks - local, regional and global - at the same time.

Company: Builk Asia

Service: Builk.com, free software with advertising

Started: 2009

Targeted revenue in 2013: Bt6 million to Bt7 million

Awards: Echelon 2012; Thailand ICT Awards 2011; Asia-Pacific ICT Awards 2011, Winner of Demo Asean 2013

Investor: Bt12 million from Project Planning Services

Wongnai.com

Wongnai Media got funding from Recruit Strategic Partners, a part of Recruit Holdings - a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that is investing in innovative start-ups. Recently, it set up an office in Chiang Mai.

This year, Wongnai.com would only be expanding locally.

Wongnai.com's core purpose is to provide an online marketing platform for local businesses in the food and beauty industries as well as department stores.

The current collaboration with Recruit Holdings is to provide accurate information about restaurants and reviews via a fun, functional and easy-to-use platforms.

Wongnai.com lists about 120,000 restaurants and has 700,000 members - a number it aims to raise to 1 million by the end of this year. Most of Wongnai.com's earnings come from advertising.

Company: Wongnai Media

Service: Wongnai.com, an online marketing platform for the food industry

Started: 2010

Awards: Software Park Thailand's KhunSuek vs Samurai Start-ups Pitching 2013

Investor: Recruit Strategic Partners


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