Launch pads set up for start-uos
DTAC to organise mobile app competition, aimed at helping Thai talents to woo Silicon Valley
Tech start-ups are being offered the opportunity to tap global investment and wider markets through a network of Thai telecom companies.
DTAC, last week, kicked off the DTAC Accelerate campaign, launching a mobile application competition under the theme "Wizard of App", to facilitate top Thai talents to present their projects to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, the leading city for the high-tech industry.
DTAC products division senior vice president Ruangroj Poonpol said the DTAC Accelerate campaign is initiated with the aim to motivate Thai developers to create innovations and new applications as well as encourage Thais to take active part in the technology revolution.
The mobile application competition is open to teams of developers, with each team not exceeding five persons. Applying teams are required to submit their proposal by the end of April. Thirty projects will be shortlisted and announced in May 2012.
The 30 shortlisted teams will participate in a coaching workshop by world-class technology developing teams during May and June. After that, 10 selected finalists will enter the actual production process and the winning team will be chosen in September 2012.
The campaign is aimed to build shortcuts for Thai application developers to a world-class learning experience in Silicon Valley.
"The programme is a brand-new platform of learning and showcasing Thai talents on the international arena. Today, DTAC brings that very rare opportunity to Thai talents who are bold enough to do things differently. This programme simply serves as a shortcut for Thai developers to Silicon Valley where they can realise their big dream on a global platform," said Ruangroj.
The winning developers from this programme will join the Blackbox Connect Accelerate programme at Silicon Valley. Blackbox is a Silicon Valley start-up accelerator focused on helping non-US start-ups that strive to bring their products to the global market. Blackbox Connect is a two-week, intense Silicon Valley immersion programme for global entrepreneurs.
For two weeks, participants will take part in an intense agenda of meetings and workshops with inspiring serial entrepreneurs, investors, experts and executives.
Ruangroj added that Thai developers who are winners would be one of 12 teams from around the world that would have the chance to present their project to venture capitalists at the Blackbox Connect Accelerate programme. Runner-up teams will join the regional Accelerate programme. The total value of the prizes in the DTAC Accelerate programme is more than Bt50 million.
"The mobile application contest is only the beginning of a shortcut to success that DTAC offers. More and more inspiring projects under the DTAC Accelerate programme will continue to follow in due course. We prepare the runway for the top 10 final teams," said Ruangroj.
The DTAC Accelerate criteria include uniqueness and originality of concept, that means unique value proposition of application and customer benefits; innovation; realistic enough to be able to commercialise and a practical business model; application design includes beautiful and easy to use user interface; and strong team.
DTAC is offering total awards worth more than Bt50 million. This includes Blackbox Connect Participation for the top team with full sponsorship by DTAC; cash award for the top three (Bt100,000 for No 1; Bt50,000 for No 2, and Bt30,000 for No 3). It is also includes HUBBA Co-working space free pass; DTAC Exclusive Launch Partner and Support for the top 3; rackspace credit worth Bt720,000 per team for the top 20; Amazon Web service worth Bt30,000 per team for the top 20; Microsoft BizSpark and other start-up tools credit and discount worth Bt3.9 million per team for the top 20; participation in an exclusive workshop and bootcamp from Silicon Valley with Fadi Bishara, Matt Monday and Stephanie Palmeri and other experts from Thailand and SEA region.
Ruangroj said he would bring his seven-year experience in Silicon Valley to share with developer teams who participate in the DTAC Accelerate programme. "From my working experience at Silicon Valley, I would say that it is the centre for technology innovations that change the world, as well as the birthplace of many world famous technology firms, but not everyone can make it there," said Ruangroj.
Silicon Valley is the world centre for technology and the high-tech industry, located in San Francisco, California. Dubbed the city of miracles, it is where ideas, dreams, technologies and businesses integrate and become a worldwide phenomena. It is the birthplace of many world-famous companies like Google, Youtube, Apple, HP, Cisco, and Instagram.
At Silicon Valley, Ruangroj worked at Google, on the Google Earth development team. He was also one of the founders of a technology start-up that managed to mobilise US$ 1.1 million (Bt30 million) capital from angel investors.
Moreover, the app developers will be able to use DTAC's technology platform as the springboard to the regional and global market through Telenor's market network.
"We are developing DTAC's technology platform to make it easier for developers to turn their development into commercial products along with marketing, business model, and billing and payment solutions," said Ruangroj.
He said the ecosystem of tech start-ups in Thailand started from last year and this year will continue to grow. DTAC will help to increase the momentum of the tech start-up ecosystem.
"These 2-3 years were a good time for the Thai tech industry. We hope to accelerate the ecosystem of tech start-ups to go global. We need to have the heroes [app developers] to reach and to be a success in Silicon Valley," said Ruangroj.
Apart from DTAC, AIS is another telecom operator that is playing a role as an accelerator to drive the ecosystem of tech start-ups in Thailand. Started in late 2011 with the first AIS The Startup Weekend 2011, currently AIS has set up a new business unit called AIS The Startup dedicated to overseeing the encouragement of the tech start-up ecosystem in Thailand.
AIS assistant vice president for wireless business marketing Prattana Leelapanang said that in 2013, AIS plans to encourage more new tech start-ups, with more than 100 projects. AIS The Startup is set to be the bridge for local developers to both the local and regional markets.
"We want to be partners and an accelerator for Thai tech start-ups by giving market opportunities. It is a programme for long-term support to Thai tech start-ups and the ecosystem," said Prattana.
It offers three main supports according to the stage of a tech start-up's development. Firstly, it offers co-marketing support. Partnering with AIS The Startup, developers can access a potential market of 35.7 million people who are now AIS subscribers.
AIS also offers co-marketing to help Thai tech start-ups to go abroad with Singtel's 400 million subscribers in six countries throughout the region.
Apart from co-marketing, AIS also provides joint development for start-ups who have potential products with the aim to turn the prototype into commercial products.
The last step is to bring potential Thai tech start-ups to meet the investor community, both in Thailand and overseas. In Thailand, InVent, the investment arm of Intouch, is a priority investor while overseas, InnoVenture, an investment unit of Singtel and joint venture between Singtel and Softbank, will play the key role in supporting the potential start-up at the regional level.
Moreover, AIS also has a network of individual investment community that is available for tech start-ups for pitching their ideas.
AIS also has the platform to distribute apps to its subscribers; the AIS App Store was established a couple of years ago. Currently, about 2 million users actively access the store, which makes available some 50,000 applications, accounting for up to 1.5 million downloads per month. Less than 5 per cent of the 50,000 total apps are Thai apps. Most of them are free applications, while only 5 per cent are paid apps.
"Under AIS's arm, apart from credit card, users can pay for apps via AIS MPay and through phone bill payment which is an easier way for users to buy apps. Tech start-ups should be able to be monetised." said Prattana.
AIS aims to turn at least 10 per cent of total start-up projects to be commercial by this year.
Intouch vice president for business development Thanapong na Ranong said Intouch was established in 2012 and it had its first and only investment - of Bt 50 million - in Okkbee.
For 2013, the company is considering 5 to 10 companies for investment. Among the criteria to be picked is firstly, the product should be innovative and the newcomers facing difficulty in entry; secondly, it considers the working culture, and last but not least, the project should hold promise of generating return on investment.
"We offer a wide range of support, not only investment, but we provide all assistance, including business and marketing training, technology support, and helping them tap overseas markets," said Thanapong.
Mobile app, digital content and cloud computing are the priority areas for Intouch's investment considerations.