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Thailand Climbs Startup Ecosystem Index, Bangkok Takes 3rd Place in Southeast Asia

Thailand

According to Startup Blink Startup Ecosystem, over the past four decades, Thailand has made significant strides towards becoming a more economically developed country, thanks to a series of reforms and social innovations. While it has primarily been known as a popular tourist destination, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled the public sector to prioritize the development of the startup ecosystem as a crucial step towards securing Thailand’s future economic growth. Although these efforts are still in their early stages compared to other locations like Singapore or Malaysia, they serve as a promising start towards realizing the full potential of the Thai ecosystem.

Thailand not only attracts tourists but also attracts a large number of digital nomads, primarily residing in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. By implementing creative policies, the Thai public sector can leverage the immense knowledge and talent pool of these individuals. The goal should be to foster connections between local and foreign entrepreneurs, with the hope of generating viable projects that enhance Thailand’s linkages and tap into its talented workforce. However, this process is not currently taking place at a satisfactory pace.

Despite the existing gap in linking foreign and local talent, the Thai public sector has demonstrated innovation through visa programs and other initiatives that enable expatriates to reside in Thailand for an extended period. Examples include the unique Elite visa, designed for business, leisure, and professional travel, as well as the Smart Visa, targeting foreigners who have established tech startups in the country. Additionally, the newly launched Long-Term Residents Visa provides various tax and non-tax benefits for high-potential individuals.

Bangkok, as the leading startup ecosystem in Thailand, stands out as the only city in the country to secure a position in the global top 100. In the latest rankings, Bangkok made a significant leap, climbing 25 spots to reach the 74th position globally. Additionally, it holds the distinction of being the third-best startup ecosystem in all of Asia. Apart from Bangkok, three other Thai provinces also made it to the top 1,000. Chiang Mai secured the 591st spot, Phuket ranked 640th, and Pattaya claimed the 849th position.

Infrastructure plays a vital role in attracting foreigners, and the Thai government has announced significant investments in this area, such as the U-Tapao Airport City, the high-speed railway, and the MRT Purple Line. These infrastructure projects are expected to create an appealing environment for entrepreneurs. In addition to these government initiatives, founders can benefit from a supportive startup community, affordable living costs, and low operating expenses in Thailand.

The National Innovation Agency (NIA), a government organization dedicated to the globalization of the startup scene, actively attracts foreign investment by promoting strategic startup ecosystems in key industries.

Like many other Asian countries, Thailand would benefit from a cultural shift that encourages the younger population to be less risk-averse and more entrepreneurial. Fortunately, the country has witnessed the emergence of several unicorns in recent years, such as Line Man Wongnai, Flash Express, and Ascend Money, all surpassing a valuation of $1 billion. This success is expected to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit among the population and attract more capital into the startup scene.

Given Thailand’s robust economy, the country has the potential to produce more unicorns in the years to come. However, the ecosystem needs to attract greater foreign investment to realize this potential. In pursuit of this objective, the Thai government has already implemented tax cuts for venture capitalists and introduced incentives for investing in specific industries. Thailand currently ranks 4th in Southeast Asia and 52nd globally, marking a one-spot improvement since the previous report.

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