By Sompoat Chansoomboon
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
As for dtac, we are a proud host of one of the best start-up accelerators in the region. DTAC accelerate has been running successfully for five consecutive years, helping to support and grow the Thai start-up ecosystem to an international level. So far, 34 startups have emerged from the programme and collectively have raised over Bt350 million foreign direct investment (FDI), which makes dtac Accelerate Thailand's number one accelerator programme and number three in Southeast Asia after Singapore and Indonesia. About 70 per cent of its start-ups have secured follow-on funding and the 34 start-ups have a combined value of Bt3.2 billion, with a 500 per cent annual growth rate.
To accelerate the growth of start-ups, dtac Accelerate provides many ways to support them: funding, mentorship from top notch tech entrepreneurs or executives such as the managing director of Line Thailand, training from world-class experts - flying in two best-selling authors from Silicon Valley, a working space at the 600-square-metre Hangar Coworking Space in the heart of Bangkok, and marketing and PR support to help start-ups reach over 23 million DTAC subscribers and 200 million Telenor subscribers in 13 of its markets worldwide. By supporting such benefits, DTAC aims to create a Thai tech unicorn, or a start-up with valuation over $1 billion (Bt33 billion).
The dtac Accelerate programme is used as the role model for seven accelerators in seven countries under the Telenor operations. As the role model, we push ourselves to the next level by opening a new track this year with the first dtac Accelerate Global Expansion Track. We support growth stage start-ups whose focus is on expansion to overseas market. The track's objective is to push Thai start-ups to a global or regional scale and to compete with start-ups from other countries like Indonesia or Singapore. This is in collaboration with 13 business units of Telenor Group around the world. After a long discussion and tough criteria, we finally selected only one Thai start-up - "Deep Pocket" - in which we invested and helped them structure partnership with Telenor Myanmar for local launch.
This year, we started batch 5 with over 500 applications in various verticals such as fintech, agritech, edutech, Internet of Things, ecommerce, traveltech, and even social media for selected community. On our pitch day, we selected the top 12 qualifiers in batch 5.
The quality of the founders is impressive and much-improved compared with the past years in terms of in-depth knowledge in the particular industry, strong connection in its business area, and international capability. We see one-third of founders are females, which is a very good sign. With strong teams, we need stronger mentors. This year, we invited mentors from top notch tech entrepreneurs/executives in Thailand, and invited, for the first time, female mentors. We have sourced the best world-class experts for our trainings through 19 workshops run from 23 speakers in the boot camp from three months.
The 12 teams from batch 5 have performed impressively, with 80 per cent of the start-ups successfully secured follow on funding within four months of bootcamp, the highest rate ever!
Impressive numbers can be seen throughout the batch, to highlight a few: Tourkrub, a tour package-selling platform, successfully sold over 12,000 tours with GMV of Bt200 million in a few months. Seekster, a cleaning and maintenance platform for properties, secured a partnership with Ananda Development to provide its service to 50,000 Ananda residents. Indie dish, a clean-food ordering application, successfully delivered 30,000 healthy meals. Ricult, a social enterprise that uses machine learning and satellite imagery to create an alternative credit score for Thai farmers to access more affordable loans, rolled out this model for 400 farmers in Pakistan and expanded to Thailand with 200 farmers now registered to the platform and more than a thousand to be added later this year.
It can be concluded that the overall Thai start-up industry is continuously growing. The quality of the founders improved significantly, and there are various types of businesses emerging which are new and innovative. It is always good news to see Thai start-ups aiming and expanding to overseas markets like T2P, and we are very proud to be supporting them. I can say this with assurance that Thai start-ups are potentially becoming key players in this regional competition.
Sompoat Chansoomboon is director of dtac Accelerate.