Silicon Valleys in the making

Silicon Valleys in the making

BANGKOK - Thailand is known more for its conglomerates than dot.com heroes, but a recent flurry of activity is bringing a little bit of Silicon Valley to the country.

A growing community of information technology entrepreneurs and increasing interest from investors have brought life to its erstwhile quiet start-up scene.

This month, a group of individuals comprising start-up pioneers, financiers and digital media experts launched a fund to inject US$10 million (S$12 million) into promising start-ups by next year.

Calling itself M8VC, the group announced plans to coach and finance fledgling Thai firms to get their products ready for the wider market - and bigger investors.

It also showcased young local start-ups, such as a price comparison service that identifies the cheapest deals available online and a mobile application that lets users share their feelings in a graphical format.

The launch comes just three months after listed firm InTouch - whose major owner is Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings - signed a US$2 million deal to acquire a 25 per cent stake in Ookbee, the biggest Thai digital book publisher in the country.

It was InTouch's first deal here since it launched a 250 million baht (S$10 million) venture capital fund in May to invest in promising IT, telecommunications and Internet-related businesses.

The prospect of more money on the table has given buzz to a sector which observers say has been fractured and undervalued for too long.

Although Thailand's infocomm technology market is worth more than 600 billion baht and growing, Ms Oranuch Lerdsuwankij, co-founder of Thai tech blog Thumbsup, said home-grown IT firms tend to concentrate on work outsourced by big corporations rather than go it alone with their own products.

Investors, meanwhile, are still "fairly conservative", said Mr Supachai Kanjanasakchai, a co-founder of M8VC.

Promising start-ups face a wall of rejection when trying to raise funds for expansion before they become market winners.

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