Bualuang Ventures focuses on nurturing local startups

After finding success in overseas startup investments, Bualuang Ventures Limited (BVL) is planning to aggressively invest in local startups, says its chief executive officer.

Yarnchai Tantiratapong says there are many opportunities in Thailand for the firm to explore, given its already strong international network through its parent company, Bangkok Bank (BBL).

BBL is, in fact, the only Thai bank that remained in operation overseas following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, allowing it to continue to build strong international networks and become familiar with international markets.

BVL, with an initial investment budget of 2 billion baht, has invested in the startups in Thailand as well as small and medium enterprises.

“Although we have extensive overseas experience, we are still very new here with only 18 months of experience, so we have to be proactive,” said Mr Yarnchai.

BBL, led by Chartsiri Sophonpanich, has now earmarked an annual budget of 500 million baht per year for BVL to invest in local startups, while expecting to enter into at least two-three deals a year.

Panukorn Chantaraprapab, BBL’s vice-president and Bualuang Ventures’ managing director, said the firm’s investment theme includes services for an ageing society, tourism and finance.

He listed finance, or fintech, as its priority as BBL expects that startups can come up with innovative ideas that could help the bank to adapt to this business disruption, while startups directed at the ageing society and tourism would be selected due to its enormous potential.

While BVL may be similar to other VCs that are backed up by commercial banks in that their primary focus is investing in startups than create synergy with their core banking business, it expects something different than other VCs regarding return.

Mr Yarnchai said its investment return is not simply profit-driven, but it also expects to gain a potential client for BBL in the long run: “The high potential startups can become our bank’s clients in the long run,” he said.

Hence, the venture capital investment focuses more on Series A startups that have potential to grow to the point that they can be the bank’s borrower or may seek to be listed on the stock exchange.

“We do not only pour money in the startups and wait for a return but we rather play a comprehensive role as investor, adviser and accelerator through our 32 overseas branches and at the end, we will also be a service provider,” Mr Yarnchai said.

Ultimately, the hope is that the startup’s business ideas and technology will support the bank in overcoming the industry’s changing landscape caused by disruptive digital technology. By investing in local startups now, BBL intends to strengthen the bank’s network in the future.

Mr Panukorn said BVL recently completed a deal with a consumer fintech startup. He cannot give more detail as the bank is still working on the due diligence in the business.

Also, the BBL has opened its Bangkok Bank InnoHub, in which the Bualuang Ventures has joined in supporting the development of InnoHub.

Currently, Stock Radars, which is one among eight fintech startups firms that has been selected by Bangkok Bank InnoHub last year, has entered into the partnership with the BBL Asset Management Co.

“Our mission is to help foster and nurture the startups through the technology disruption, and at the end, we will become a strategic partner,” said Mr Yarnchai.

Investment-Bualuang venturesYarnchai Tantiratapong, Bualuang Ventures’ CEO


Investment-Bualuang venturesPanukorn Chantaraprapab, BBL’s vice-president and Bualuang Ventures’ managing director