According to Charoenphan, the first batch went well, but they lacked the resources to run a second program. “With Topica, we now have the entire team of co-directors and also ground crew to assist in the re-launch. There’s no reason at all this time why we can’t sustain it,” he said.
Despite being launched during the midst of rough political climate, The Founder Institute Bangkok program attracted more than 100 applicants and 25 startups made the starting lineup. “The TFI team has proven that it can be a significant player within the startup ecosystem, where it graduated more than 30 startups in only 4 batches (in Hanoi) and in the process, helped raise more than 10 million for some of its graduates,” said Charoenphan.
Adeo Ressi, Founder and CEO of the Founder Institute, sees opportunity in Thailand as a fast growing startup ecosystem. “Over the last several years, there has been a large influx of foreign venture capital into the region and several top notch accelerators have launched as well,” he said. “We believe that the Founder Institute can play a vital role at the earliest stage of company development in Bangkok, so we have partnered with Topica to help develop the future of Bangkok’s Founder Institute.”
The Topica-run program first launched in Hanoi in 2011 to great success. Since inception, the top eight program graduates have raised US$10 million with a combined valuation of US$60 million valuation. Startup have benefited from the support of top mentors such as SaiKit Ng of Captii Ventures, Peng T. Ong of Monk’s Hill Ventures, Nguyen Hong Truong of IDG Ventures and Le Hong Minh of VNG Corp.
The three-and-a-half month program with the tagline “keep your day job, start your dream company,” runs only one night a week, so it allows new entrepreneurs to keep their day job while trying on startup life for size. The program takes a structured approach to training the next generation of entrepreneurs by following a curriculum and assigning homework. Peer collaboration also takes an important role in allowing founders to practice their leadership and team building skills.
The topics covered in the program’s 14 sessions run the gamut of idea, business and launch. Entrepreneurs will put together a company name, vision and business model while learning the ins and outs of startup legal, product development, fundraising and branding.
Appota, a mobile content distribution platform conceived at Founder Institute, is one of the Hanoi program’s exemplary graduates. Since launching in 2011, the startup has partnered with more than 10,000 developers and advertisers worldwide including the likes of Kakao, LINE and InMobi.
Founder Do Tuan Anh said that although he was an entrepreneur for a decade before joining Founder Institute, the program gave him a framework and taught him a more systemic approach to building a global business.
After their time with Founder Institute, Appota now employs 300 employees across four Southeast Asian cities and has acquired over 22 million users in three years.
He also sees a lot of similarities between the Thai and Vietnamese market which may translate the Hanoi program’s success into Bangkok. “Thai startups and their founders are quite similar to those in Vietnam in many ways, being in the same region, having similar culture and at a similar stage of economic development. That’s why the model has worked in Silicon Valley and also in Vietnam,” he said.
Originally launched in Silicon Valley in 2009, Founder Institute has launched over 1,500 companies throughout chapters in over 80 cities. Top graduates include American online learning marketplace Udemy which has raised US$48 million to date and Singapore’s iCarsclub which raised US$70 million.
Coming up on May 27th, Founder Institute Thailand will be running an event where three prominent VCs in the region (Efraim Pettersson, Founding Partner of TechGrind Incubator & Venture Capital, Koichi Saito, Founder & General Partner of KK Fund, Paul Ark, Managing Director of SCB Digital Ventures) will meet to discuss whether large funding rounds (is Apple’s $1 billion investment into Didi Chuxing enough to take on Uber?), are the only way to win against industry giants (Registration link here).