What’s next for startups in Thailand?


By Sittipong Sirimaskasem, CEO&Founder of RGB72

Mid-May 2018 featured a massive event for the Startup crowd, the can’t-miss Startup Thailand 2018.

This is the third consecutive year for Startup Thailand. The format of this event is different each year with the aim of supporting startups to grow and furthering government policy.

Startup Thailand is more than a talking shop, however. It’s not just booths and pitching events.

Startup Thailand is more like a checkpoint for all players, whether startups, mentors, VCs and other supporters to review development and growth in the Thai startup scene.

With over five years of experience as a director and mentor to startups, the clear changes appear to be as follows:

Thai startups are learning to adapt

For sure, over the last five years, there are startups that have grown and developed, while many others have disappeared. But there’s another group that learned to adapt and develop new ideas that enabled their business to grow.

Sellsuki is a startup that has been around for years. The Sellsuki system helps online traders communicate with customers via chat, enabling them to work more efficiently, and now the company is growing rapidly. Sellsuki formed a joint venture to create a multi-brand store in Siam Square called “Camp”. This adaptation allows the company to extend their business while retaining its core idea of helping out online traders.

Thai startups are learning to face reality.

Not every idea thought up by a startup pans out, and you have to believe that good ideas are generally outnumbered by useless ideas.

But besides “daring to try”, Thai Startups must accept the reality that “daring to close” is harder than “daring to open”.

Ookbee Mall was a startup in the Ookbee group that closed two years ago, and it’s a great example of how daring to close a business can enable a team to change their focus to other areas that have more of a chance of surviving. For many people, closing something they created and nurtured is not an easy task. But Ookbee and other Thai startups of its ilk have found that facing reality wastes the least amount of time while allowing the startup to adapt to new opportunities. This is better than restricting yourself to old ideas.

Thai startups have expanded throughout the country

One of the government’s targets is to educate Thais across the country on entrepreneurship, rather than being clustered in Bangkok or major cities. Recently, I had the opportunity to give talks and be a director at events in the provinces. I was encouraged to find that the idea of creating a startup business is being discussed and passed on in the provinces, motivating many young people brave enough to have a go at doing something new.

Most importantly, these youngsters are not just thinking up technology or ideas in order to seek fame and fortune in Bangkok or overseas. Many of them see the true problems of the provinces and want to use technology to address those problems in a smart way.

Even more interesting is that although Bangkokians have an easier and quicker access to technology, only a few understand the background and needs of the people in the provinces.

Spreading ideas and knowledge about startups to young people has many excited to get out into the world, even if they haven’t yet graduated from their studies.

The number of startups in Thailand has increased by many thousands of teams. Looking ahead, I believe that this new generation of startups may be sharper than their forebears because this generation does not only have ideas, but they have perspectives on being an entrepreneur and they think everything through in every aspect.

Finally, I am not worried about Thai youngsters with respect to technology, but I am worried about doing business and that they will be able to combine their creativity with their knowledge of technology while enhancing their ideas about managing a company and the responsibilities that come with it. I believe that soon we will see many new startups with interesting achievements.