Line puts $20m into making a unicorn

Mr Kang says a Thai unicorn is possible within 3-5 years.

Line Thailand and Line Ventures have allocated US$20 million (632 million baht) to help startups grow their business, with an aim to develop the first Thai unicorn within 3-5 years under the ScaleUp programme.

Line wants to gather innovative startups to strengthen its Super App strategies.

"We selected Thailand as the first country to launch ScaleUp to help local startups have access to more extensive funding, with the belief we can build the first Thai unicorn startup within 3-5 years," said Jayden Kang, executive director of global business development, overseeing Thailand, for Line Ventures.

Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam are getting a lot of investment because of their ability to attract the regional market. In 2018, investment in Thai startups was only $61 million, while Indonesia topped $3 billion, Vietnam saw $890 million and Malaysia drew $148 million.

ScaleUp aims to be a "post-accelerator" to help expand the growth phase, giving startups access to Line's 44 million customers in Thailand and one year of free access to Line's messaging application programming interface. Mentoring and coaching are also part of the programme, with areas of interest comprising education, digital content/media and e-commerce that compliments Line's business.

ScaleUp helps startups connect with international venture capital funds, particularly Line Ventures, which will take a 20% share if the startup has a solid business model that can be expanded globally through Line's network. The scheme is looking for startups that already have products and services with a clear understanding of customers' needs.

The company piloted ScaleUp last year with five selected startups. The project will open here on May 17, with a demo day this November.

Kay Lim, lead of global investment for Line Ventures Global, a venture capital arm under Line Corporation, said Thailand's startup funding is mainly in the seed stage, comprising 48%, with Series A at 26% and Series B 9%.

Deals are still small as Thai startups lack a regional mindset and founder teams need international introductions. Unicorn startups usually take five years to gain traction, such as Indonesia's GoJek. Potential unicorns in Thailand are in travel tech, fintech and education tech.

Line Ventures, which manages three funds worth $100 billion, has invested in 43 firms, 12 of which are in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, it invested $5 million in Series A with FastWork and acquired e-commerce platform SellSuki.

Eunjung Lee, Line's senior vice-president of global business, is acting managing director of Line Thailand.

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