Female Founders Raising Capital in Thailand: Connections Get Your Foot in the Door
Thailand is ranked fourth in Southeast Asia for the best startup ecosystem following Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And throughout 2021, the country also saw a significant increase of investment that totaled 642.7 billion baht (19.5 billion USD) from the combined value of foreign and local investment pledges – a 59% increase from the previous year.
While venture capital firms are active in the market, the Thai government has also introduced income tax exemptions for investments in Thai startups through individuals, companies, and cooperate venture capital (CVC) to boost the startup growth. The move to waive tax is expected to drive funding for local startups up to 320 billion baht (9.3 billion USD) by 2026.
As the ecosystem develops, women entrepreneurship is key to boosting economic stability, sustainable development, and innovation. But due to a complex mix of institutional, cultural, and economic factors, many female founders raising capital in Thailand find it challenging as capital flows to female-led businesses remains low.
According to the IFC of the World Bank Group, women own about half of Thailand’s 3.1 million enterprises: micro, small and medium. And about 50% of these roughly 1.5 million women-owned businesses are considered either financially or fully constrained. For the female founders, this means they either cannot access capital or can only do so with limitations.
To better understand the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in accessing capital, Connecting Founders engaged with several female founders who shared their unique journeys raising capital in Thailand.
Co-founder of ila, a social startup tackling gender-based violence in workplaces, Net is in the midst of raising capital to fund ALLY — a B2B mobile application that upskills retail staff from bystanders into active allies against gender-based abuse.
Starting her fundraising journey in December 2021 to accelerate the app, Net said what’s unique about Thailand’s investment landscape is connections.
Entrepreneurs with connections inside investor circles have more opportunities to deliver their pitches and a higher chance to kickstart their businesses, even more so when they are being referred to by people from big name companies. This means, for an ’outsider’ raising funds in Thailand with fewer familiar faces, connecting with investors creates a massive challenge before even worrying about the actual pitch.
This aspect of raising capital in Thailand could be what hinders startup growth, Net said as she compared it to the U.K., where ila is based, which has a more supportive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive on their own merit.
As for being a young female founder raising funds for a gender-specific business and pitching to a ‘room full’ of male investors, Net said it can be frustrating at times. On top of delivering her business projections, Net has to also carefully craft her language by using a more ‘neutral tone’ to avoid being labeled as ‘too feminist’, and to neutralize initial discomfort about gender issues that can scare investors away.
With these challenges, Net encouraged entrepreneurs to step up networking strategies and initiate connections with like-minded people who can help bridge the connection gap and navigate funds. Adding to that, Net said it is important to profile investors before each and every meeting in order to draft your pitch and increase any chance of succeeding.
Related article from the Female Founders Raising Capital in Thailand series: Take Implicit Bias with Confidence