Thailand is a country known around the world for its natural beauty, rich culture and exquisite cuisine. But you may be unaware that Thailand is also becoming a popular location for both Thai and foreign entrepreneurs to launch their tech startups.
Once you start to take a look at the country from a cost of living, infrastructure, and investment perspective, the popularity begins to make perfect sense.
Thailand has a remarkably low cost of living, considering the quality of its infrastructure. With high-speed internet available practically everywhere, a stable power grid, and low housing, food, medical care, and transportation costs, the country is well ahead of the curve in attracting tech talent from all over the world.
Obviously, these factors are not unique to Thailand. But what sets Thailand apart and makes it enticing for foreign entrepreneurs is the industry and government support, plus all the working benefits it offers to startups registering in the country.
The reason Thailand is emerging as a mecca for startups is mainly because the government is making a concerted effort to redirect the country's economy away from the agriculture-based economy of old. They’ve identified ten key industries to lead Thailand into the future of a sustainable, technology-based economy. These industries include:
This vision for the future of the country is called Thailand 4.0. And looking through the list, you can see that it offers a lot of ancillary opportunities for startups and the entire spectrum of tech applications. To encourage the development of these startup enterprises, the government is putting considerable effort into establishing policies that favor tech companies.
Different government agencies have been set up solely to administer these policies and benefits. To encourage growth in the business sectors that will be establishing this new economy, Thailand’s government is also offering investment opportunities that are piquing the interest of venture capitalists and private investors. These opportunities offer allowances and exemptions on visas, taxes and import duties for businesses qualifying under the Board of Investment’s (BOI) criteria as a Thailand 4.0 tech company.
For entrepreneurs interested in launching their startup in Thailand because of these unique opportunities and benefits, certain criteria will have to be met. Foreign entrepreneurs, senior executives, investors and employees, will need to apply for either a work permit and a non-B visa, or a SMART Visa. The SMART Visa is definitely preferable, as it doesn’t require an additional work permit to allow foreigners to work in Thailand.
There are five types of SMART Visas, depending on the function of the applicant:
The SMART Visa offers several benefits over that of the usual work permit and Non-B visa required for foreigners to live and work in Thailand. While the Non-B visa requires you to report to immigration every 90 days, with the SMART Visa, this is reduced to once a year. No re-entry permit is required for trips out of Thailand. The SMART Visa also offers a longer period of validity. For the type T, I and E SMART Visa, the maximum period of stay is up to 4 years.
The requirements differ depending on what type of SMART Visa you're applying for. Please note that for all SMART Visa applications, supporting documents will be required. And all of the visas will have a validity of at least one year.
For the foreign entrepreneur, you must have a fixed deposit of at least THB 600,000 with a maturity term of at least one year. You must also have health insurance and be endorsed by a Thai company or be taking part in an endorsed accelerator or incubation program. You can also enter into a joint venture with a Thailand-registered company.
For foreign investors, they must invest in companies using technology in their products and services or be directly involved with the list of the BOI’s, Thailand 4.0 targeted industries. They must also commit to a minimum investment of THB 20 million.
Highly-skilled technology experts applying for the SMART T Visa must be paid at least THB 200,000 a month. They must also be employed in one of the BOI's targeted industries. They may be asked to submit documents proving their technical knowledge and experience.
High-level executives applying for a position as a Chairman or Managing Director and seeking the SMART E Visa, must have at least a bachelor's degree and be able to show at least ten years of work experience. They must be paid a salary of at least THB 200,000. They must also have plans to work in a company using technology in their products and services or work for a company on the BOI’s list of targeted industries.
Although you may be enticed by the benefits and be able to satisfy all the requirements, you still may need some guidance on getting your startup going once you’ve arrived in Thailand. There are a lot of registration and operational details to see to before your startup can even think about turning a profit.
True Digital Park (TDPK) offers office space and co-working spaces for rent in Bangkok that feature everything you need to set up a business. From conference rooms to copiers, TDPK helps you save on startup costs by providing these necessities on a rent-as-needed basis.
It is an environment that’s made for tech startups. With a calendar of ongoing events, seminars, and workshops, TDPK provides an all-encompassing community that helps startups achieve their goals. TDPK is well-connected with the government agencies administering the policies of Thailand 4.0, the leaders of the tech industry in Thailand, accelerator and incubator programs, business educators, and private investors and venture capital firms.
Besides providing endorsement letters that can help your successful application for a SMART Visa, they can introduce you to everything you’ll need for you and your colleagues to flourish in the tech community of Thailand. If you’re seriously considering launching your startup in Thailand, visit TDPK in Bangkok to learn more about the benefits of beginning your tech adventure in the best tech environment in the country.