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Helping Hand Package to Startups

Aug 17. 2017
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A REGULATORY “sandbox” for experimental undertakings is among measures the Finance Ministry is introducing to help startups succeed.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Somchai Sujjapongse, said yesterday that the sandbox would let entrepreneurs try out innovations that are currently prohibited.

The ministry was drafting legislation on the proposal for submission to the Cabinet next month or in October.

The ministry will also consider waiving withholding tax for startups and might allow them to raise funds by listing on the stock exchange or by issuing convertible bonds. 

Incentives would also be provided to foreigners working with Thai startups.

Additionally, the ministry would launch a training course for |middle-school and vocational students to encourage them to think about innovative approaches to business.

“We want startups to register in Thailand instead of Singapore,” Somchai said, acknowledging that Thailand has been slower in creating the necessary “ecosystem” for them to thrive. 

The result has been that many Thais register their startups in Singapore, where there is less red tape.

Mongkol Leelatham, president of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand, said the bank is organising a training course called SME-D Scale Up for budding entrepreneurs.

Initially it would provide Bt168 million in soft loans to 56 start-ups, each getting about Bt3 million. They would be charged 3-per-cent interest.

Krating Poonpol, co-founder of 500 Tuk Tuks, a venture capital fund, said that over the past two years the private sector has pushed for regulatory changes to support startups. 

Capital mobility is one of the key issues because it is very difficult to move money in and out of the Kingdom. 

Those who want to take Bt5 million out of Thailand must seek approval from the Bank of |Thailand and that takes about two months.

The government doesn’t need to invest directly in startups but can provide other incentives. State-run venture capital could match funding from private investors in startups.

The proposal for fundraising via an over-the-counter stock market may not be practical.

Small-cap companies can already apply for listing on the Market for Alternative Investment, which is helpful.

The government should also grant a longer visa – two years instead of three months – for skilled workers from abroad. 

“Singapore and Chile even provide grants worth US$100,000 (Bt3.3 million) and $60,000, respectively, to woo foreign experts or talent,” Krating said.

“Many countries now are competing to draw talented workers to their countries.”


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