Thailand seeks to boost local startups with $150m fund

The Digital Economy Fund will go towards creating a “healthy” ecosystem.

As part of efforts to facilitate the local startup ecosystem, Thailand will be budgeting THB5 billion (~US$147 million) for the Digital Economy Fund, it was announced. New startups needing initial funds for innovative product and service development will receive financial support from this fund, reported The Bangkok Post. The fund will be used in four ways. It will go to startups and the private sector in digital economy development; boost research and development; support the operations of the new Digital Economy Promotion Agency; and cover expenses for the National Digital Economy Committee Office. The Thai government is now working on incentive packages for startups, the report said, including tax incentives. It plans to also improve on the digital literacy of the local workforce. “It’s not just funding support. The government has a clear strategic plan to make the ecosystem healthy,” Digital Economy Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj was quoted as saying. To further support startups, the country is now building a digital innovation park in Sri Racha, Chon Buri. Back in 2016, Somchai Sujjapongse, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, shared with GovInsider that Thailand is spending THB15 billion (~US$442m) to boost its startup ecosystem. According to Sujjapongse, the government had identified four key areas that are “the new growth engine” for the economy: food and agriculture; high tech (robotics, smart devices and sensors); healthcare; and lifestyle and culture (particularly tourism). “Once we provide the appropriate ecosystem for startups to grow in Thailand, we believe that startups from other countries will come in,” he said. To encourage innovation, Sujjapongse had planned to set up competitions among startups to achieve specific tasks, while Thailand’s National Startup Committee will identify problems and services that can be fixed or improved on. For instance, “how can we set up the Thai version of Line?” he asked. Ultimately, Thailand expects to create at least 3,000 startup projects within the first year of running the programme and produce 18 ‘unicorn’ projects in the long run, said Sujjapongse, and also build four startup districts in Bangkok. Image by Bernard Spragg. NZCC BY 2.0