By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN
UNITED OVERSEAS BANK (Thai) says it has embraced three platforms - training and mentorship, funding channels and regional expansion partnerships - to help Thai start-ups expand their footprints in the region.
James Rama Phataminviphas, head of channels and digitisation at UOB (Thai), said the number of funded start-ups in Thailand now was around 72, compared with more than 220 start-up companies in Singapore. Start-ups in Singapore have disclosed funding of US$1.16 billion (Bt40.7 billion), against $108 million for Thai start-ups.
The figures show that funding is important to help the growth of start-ups while Thailand is in the early stage of start-up development.
Talent, funding and expanding business are three big problems faced by Thai start-ups, he said.
To help solve the talent problem, UOB (Thai) will promote the FinLab, a three-month innovative acceleration programme, to help start-ups refine their business models.
The FinLab is a joint venture between UOB and Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL), and Thai fintech start-ups can apply to participate in the three-month programme in the first quarter of next year in Singapore.
The second platform is funding channels through OurCrowd, a global equity crowd-funder. UOB is a stakeholder in OurCrowd and InnoVen Capital, the latter of which offers venture debt financing to Thai start-ups.
The third platform is expanding business in the 19 countries where UOB does business. James said UOB had experience in banking for small and medium-sized enterprises in Asia, giving it a deep understanding of this sector.
In Thailand, Stock2Day has been selected to join the FinLab in Singapore.
James said two Thai start-ups were expected to qualify to join the FinLab next year.
In Thailand, Pomelo Co has received support funding of $5 million (together with Malaysia-based kFit Holdings) InnoVen Capital.
The parent bank UOB has added $10 million to OurCrowd to fund support for start-ups.
At present, there are 93 companies in OurCrowd, which have raised a total of $220 million from crowd-funding.
UOB (Thai) hopes that around two to three start-ups next year will mobilise funds via OurCrowd.
Collaboration is essential to help start-up, and UOB (Thai) is partnering with fintech firms to develop financial platforms to ride the lifestyles of consumers, for which business-to-consumer platforms should be seen next year, James said.
Vireka Suntapuntu, senior director of the Financial Institution Applications Department, Bank of Thailand, said a challenge to fintech start-ups was how to make clients understand and use their products, while the behaviour of customers has changed quickly. Therefore, trust is a key factor for a fintech start-up.
The BOT has initiated a regulatory sandbox for live testing to help fintech start-ups make sure they understand what customers need and ride the quick changes of customer behaviour.