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Giving Thai start-ups a taste of Silicon Valley

Eighty per cent of tech start-ups fail. Yes, you heard it right, 80 per cent of them fail.

When people look at Silicon Valley, they see super-successful tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google and usually think that it's so easy. The truth is that all these big tech companies had passed through rock bottom. They failed again and again before they eventually succeeded.

Silicon Valley, the birthplace of great companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, is the place tech entrepreneurs should visit to experience the magic behind the success of those global companies, much in the same way as artists visit Florence.

We at True Incube took two of the six start-ups from our first class - Sellsuki, a chat-commerce platform for Facebook merchants, and Sticgo, the world's first location-based sticker mobile application - to experience Silicon Valley in February.

We had the opportunity to visit Evernote's headquarters in Silicon Valley and met Troy Malone, the general manager, who shared the company's exciting insight story.

"When Phil Libin founded Evernote, there was a financial crisis in the US. Evernote ran out of money and Phil decided to shut down the company in the next two weeks. It was a hard but inevitable decision, as there was so little money left to pay for employees' salaries.

"At that exact moment, Phil received an e-mail from an Evernote user in Sweden at 3am saying how much he loved Evernote and that he would gladly provide funding, if the company was looking for investment. Phil immediately grabbed this chance and, a couple of hours later, $500,000 [about Bt16 million] was transferred to Evernote's bank account. The company then went on to become the company it is today, with an over $1-billion valuation and 80 million users globally," he said.

The story is a reminder of how fragile building a start-up is and how creating a user-centric product is the most important thing. This is probably the single most important thing that we and our start-ups learned, and what we hope will be a reminder for Thai start-ups eventually.

We also visited several tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Airbnb and Electronic Arts. One thing they all have in common is that they have Thai employees. Some of them graduated from Thailand, applied for a job and flew to Silicon Valley to have an interview and got a job offer.

This is proof that Thai tech geeks are good enough for Silicon Valley.

We also visited 500 Startups, which is True Incube's partner. The US company, which has one of the top accelerator programmes in the world, was founded by Dave McClure, a former executive of PayPal.

On Demo Day at 500 Startups offices, we met Patai Padungtin, the founder of Builk - a crowd-sourced construction-data company - which is the only Thai tech start-up to have joined the 500 Startups accelerator programme in Silicon Valley.

After Demo Day, Builk was featured in TechCrunch and TheNextWeb, two famous tech media channels in the US, and became one of the most attractive start-ups in the eyes of investors. This is the second piece of proof that Thais are capable enough - and that momentum is coming!

By leveraging all key assets inside True Group, our mission is to turn those 80 per cent failing start-ups into successes.

True Incube recently selected five finalists for its 99-day Boot Camp, which started in mid-April.

Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa is managing director of True Incube.


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