500 Startups has officially announced the launch of a $10 million fund in Thailand, with the aim of nurturing early-stage startups in Thailand’s growing tech industry.
The micro-fund is called 500 TukTuks in reference to the 3-wheeled motorised rickshaws found in the country, and will be managed by two well known investors in the Thai technology scene – the founder of Ookbee, Natavudh Pungcharoenpong, and founder of Disrupt University, Krating Poonpol, who recently joined 500 Startups as Venture Partner.
500 TukTuks to focus on software and fin-tech
500 TukTuks will primarily be involved with software companies and marketplaces, but it’s also interested in fin-tech (financial technology) which, according to Poonpol, is not a part of the Thai startup scene at the moment.
The new fund will provide selected starts with between $50,000 and $100,000 initially, and then double the investments if the teams are successful. Startups will also have access to the Silicon Valley accelerator’s network of mentors and 2,000 founders.
500 TukTuks plans to start immediately, with investment in up to 7 companies in the next two or three months. According to Pungcharoenpong, it plans to back 50 to 60 companies in the next two and a half years. Those startups can be local firms, or have a business model that’s applicable to both regional and global markets, or a model like bigger companies in the global market that’s not yet developed in Thailand.
“We’re willing to invest in very, very early-stage startups. For example, if the team has some startup people and they are working on a prototype, and the prototype is awesome, we’re willing to cut the cheque early”, said Poonpol. Pungcharoenpong also said that 500 TukTuks’ aim is to develop and scale early-stage startups for higher value funding later.
“There are investors coming to the region who are looking at Series A or Series B. In a market like Thailand, there are not many companies that are ready to go into those stages”, he recently said.
500 TukTuks has until now invested in 3 companies – the online handicrafts company Blisby, payment platform OMISE and Bangkok’s first shared co-working space called HUBBA.
Thailand’s startup scene
Thailand has the fourth-largest population in Southeast Asia, with 65 million people and 40 million of those having Internet access on their smartphones. So it’s clear that the country has huge potential for startups.
The country’s mobile web traffic in the Asia-Pacific region is in fourth place at 39%, higher than that of Malaysia at 35%, and LINE is the most popular social network app with 35 million users (more than Facebook).
500 Startups has already invested in 8 Thai companies via its 500 Durians fund, and as it’s now investing $10 million into the startup scene, it’s apparent that global funds are recognising Thailand’s future potential.
In the last two years alone, Thailand’s startups have raised more than $25 million, compared with almost nothing before that. With 500 TukTuks now helping to kick-start investment, it’s hoped that even more investors will turn their attention to the Thai startup scene.
SOURCE: Daily News