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Thailand represents one of the most promising opportunities for entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. It is the second largest economy in the region and has some of the most business friendly policies in the world. The impact of social media and mobile phone use is considerable and growing, a trend that leaders of 2014’s military coup found difficult to suppress. Bangkok, a longtime staple destination for vacationers, boasts a low cost of living and a strong entrepreneurial culture based around small, family-owned businesses. However, while the growing entrepreneurial community is garnering attention, it remains small and inexperienced, with a lack of skilled local developers, investors and mentors to carry it forwards. Much activity is still behind closed doors / between friends, which slows community development. And while the telecoms industry is increasing support and investment for local startups, overall access to capital can be significantly improved; most entrepreneurs look towards Singapore or Hong Kong for fundraising.

In This Market

These businesses offer industry expertise and are a source of startup talent and potential customers. They help fuel the local startup community.

Opportunities

  • Second largest economy in Southeast Asia, with quick access to other East and Southeast Asia markets, most notably to Singapore and Hong Kong.
  • Cost of living is among the lowest in Southeast Asia, and Bangkok is an attractive international destination. The quality of life is also reasonably high...NomadList.com list 5 Thai cities as top destinations for expat entrepreneurs.
  • Strong entrepreneurial culture, with a long tradition of small, family owned firms. Startups like Page365 are leverage the huge mom and pop growth potential.
  • Rapidly growing technology use, with smartphone use rising to 49 percent.
  • Startup momentum increasing from 2012 onwards, after 3G became widely available and several coworking spaces and other resources opened.
  • A massive retail presence with major eCommerce potential. Thailand is also well-positioned to innovate in the mobile, hospitality, small business services, agriculture, and automobile industries.
  • While Thailand has one of the most business friendly environments in Southeast Asia, placed at 26th globally according to the World Bank, the nearby startup hubs of Malaysia (18) and Singapore (1) still rank above it.

Risk Factors

  • Lack of experience on the part of investors and entrepreneurs remains the most pressing issue.
  • While Thailand has some strong business schools, it lacks a world-class university for IT, which translates to a lack of skilled developers.
  • Investors prefer to invest in safer spaces like real estate or the stock market. Many lack the experience or will necessary to enter the tech sphere.
  • English language use is relatively low, which can limit growth to the domestic market and surrounding region. That being said, several startups are addressing the local language learning space.
  • Government regulations which necessitate domestic ownership. Companies can apply for special certification from the Thailand Board of Investment, which allows 100% foreign ownership and generous tax forgiveness, but the process is arduous.
  • Few exits to date, which keeps a lot of capital on the sidelines.
  • Country politics bring regulatory and stability uncertainty.
Methodology

Market Indicators

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