By Jon Russel for TechCrunch
Thailand’s banks have stepped up to chase the startup dream over the past year. Following on from SCB’s Digital Ventures, which has backed blockchain startup Ripple among others, Kasikorn Bank (KBank) has made the first investment from its $30 million fund — a $1.15 million round for Bangkok-based FlowAccount.
KBank announced its Beacon fund this summer. It has made investments into funds as an LP, most notably it is involved in Singapore’s Dymon Asia, but this is its first direct investment in a startup.
The bank was joined in the round by Japan-based conglomerate SBI Group, and FlowAccount’s seed investors 500 Startups and Golden Gate Ventures.
FlowAccount is a cloud-based platform for business accounting. It plans to use these new funds to grow its team of 20, and develop new products that extend its reach from cloud-based accounting systems into other SME services. This week, it launched a solution for accounting firms themselves, and it is planning payroll and other HR services for small businesses in the future.
Initially, it is keeping its focus on Thailand, CEO and co-founder Kridsada ‘Gideon’ Chutinaton told TechCrunch in an interview.
“For this round we are still focused locally, we want to be the go-to for small businesses in Thailand,” he said. “We believe the domestic market is still large enough to be a one-county play for the immediate future. When we capture the Thai market then we can begin to look overseas.”
Indeed, snagging Kasikorn Bank (KBank) and SBI as partners can help achieve both of those ends. Chutinaton said KBank has begun some integrations between the FlowAccount service and its SME offerings, while it could heavily promote the service to its customer base — which include the largest share of SMEs for any Thai bank.
SBI, meanwhile, has extensive experience working with SME-focused startups in its native Japan, including freee. Chutinaton said SBI’s involvement can help prime FlowAccount for large funding rounds and an international push when the time is right.
For now his goal is to help SMEs in Thailand, and the wider Southeast Asia area, bring the benefits of the internet and the cloud to their operations.
“Local players building local solutions for countries is really valuable,” he explained, noting that most global services aren’t suited to small businesses operating in Southeast Asia. “It may not appeal to a global audience but it impacts local people and that’s worth doing.”
“Adoption for Saas on a subscription service basis is still very new here and we’re helping companies take that step from processing information offline to doing it online. We think that getting people to start doing their accounting online can really help the country,” he added