Carving Out A Space on the Entrepreneurial Map: Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand has plenty to offer — scenic nature and pristine islands, gourmet cuisine, arts and entertainment, and an active nightlife that will keep your head spinning until sunrise. Bangkok in particular blends these components in a way that exceeds your imagination. Over the last few years, the city has evolved from a tourist destination into a central hub for Southeast Asia. With each city featured in Rokk3r Labs’ Global Entrepreneurship Series, the common denominator of a city’s potential as the next regional and/or global tech hub has inevitably been asked. Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh. All are at varying stages as tech-ecosystems but it could be argued that none of them have reached that momentous declaration as the hub for innovation in Southeast Asia. If it is for argument’s sake, there is no doubt in my mind that Bangkok, Thailand deserves the title.
Entrepreneurship and Tech: Here and Now
In terms of becoming a tech hub, Thailand is already there and innovation is thriving. Entrepreneurs hailing from neighboring countries such as Vietnam — and even hub rival Singapore — are pouring into the country to test, validate, and scale their business ideas. Just over a year ago, the government announced a $570 million venture fund for developing the startup ecosystem, transforming it into a massive digital hub project worth over half a billion dollars. The country itself boasts over 2,500 startups, most of which will benefit from the support of the fund, scheduled to be actively making investments by 2018. These 2,500+ startups range from food and delivery services to 3D printing and education.
Bangkok carries its own weight as the number of active VCs have grown from 1 to 8, and as a result, the number of funded startups from 3 in 2012 to more than 72 in 2016, as reported by Tech in Asia. Along with the increased access to capital, there have been infrastructural changes as the number of coworking spaces are exponentially increasing along with better transportation options. All of this contributes to a growing and shared interest to collaborate and work on ideas that impact the local region and beyond. And it’s an extremely infectious interest.
The Greater Picture: The Three Waves of Southeast Asia
I would argue that Bangkok represents a convergence that is happening all around Southeast Asia. A convergence of ideas, a collaborative spirit, and a hunger to see tech and entrepreneurship flourish in a region that traditionally has been overlooked, underestimated, and quickly stamped as “third-world” by global peers. Bangkok introduces a new touch to the conversation, which cascades and ripples out as neighboring countries attempt to feel out their place as a growing and attractive tech and startup location. The ripples thus far have carved out three distinct waves that Southeast Asian countries are falling into.
The First Wave is represented by countries such as Thailand and Singapore. These are countries that have etched their names on the map as established and vibrant tech and entrepreneurship hubs. They have a global attraction for people to come and build companies. Then there is the Second Wave, countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia who are positioned as rising and growing tech ecosystems that are still working out the political, social, and economic kinks.
Lastly, there is the Third Wave. This wave is comprised of countries in the region like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos with premature startup landscapes but promising testing grounds to nurture and validate ideas. In the video below, Jacky Cheng, a tech and entrepreneurial coach originally from Singapore but prominent in Thailand, elaborates on these three tiers. He comments on the differences, their significance, and how the region is transforming more and more into a cross-country collaborative effort.
For the Global Entrepreneurship Series, Rokk3r Labs’ Jide Adebayo is on a journey across the world digging deeper into entrepreneurs’ stories, understanding the universal investor mindset, and connecting the global collective genius.
We are excited for you to follow the journey, engage with the stories and share your experiences from the region. You can also read Jide’s personal anecdotes and connect with him over at jideadebayo.com.
More from the Rokk3r Labs Global Entrepreneurship Series:
- Lisbon: Punching Above its Weight
- Serbia: From Outsourcing to Entrepreneurship
- Cambodia: Kingdom of Mystery
- Vietnam: Resisting and Reinventing
- Kuala Lumpur: A Melting Pot of Culture, A Recipe for Ideas
- Kuala Lumpur
Rokk3r Labs is a venture builder and the world’s first ‘cobuilding’ platform for entrepreneurs, corporations and investors to create exponential startups. In 2017, Rokk3r Labs launched Rokk3r Fuel EXO, its first global venture capital fund. As a partner, Rokk3r Labs increases value, mitigates risk and helps to remain at the edge of innovation. With a focus on leveraging exponential technologies (e.g., the blockchain, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things) and implementing new-age methods of raising capital, Rokk3r Labs is harnessing the global collective genius to cobuild companies that change the world. Currently, the Rokk3r Labs portfolio includes over 40 ventures. Visit www.rokk3rlabs.com.