Source: Interviewer Oranuch Lerdsuwankij (Mimee), CEO & Co-founder, Techsauce
Moderator: Waleeporn Sayasit, General Manager-Corporate Communications, TCC Technology
[Waleeporn]: Okay, would you like to start with your background and how you build ‘Techsauce’?
[Mimee]: Actually, my background is Telecom Engineer who graduated from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, short name is KMITL. And, also took the Master’s Degree in Information Technology Management. After that, I worked with big mobile operators and system integrator almost twelve years. And, I have realized that my passion, I am really passionate in education industry and would like to find out the way how can we improve the existing education system for the entrepreneur, especially for the technology entrepreneur because I believe that to drive the digital economy for Thailand, one of the key stakeholder is Tech start-up.
We should start from the education side first because education is the fundamental for every society. So, this is the reason why we set up Techsauce as an educational hub for tech start-up company in Thailand. And, we have two things: on-line media and another part is the off-line event that during that time we used another name starting up to invite all the start-ups and VC during 2011. There’s only like a hundred companies, hundred people who attended that event. And, right now it’s growing up rapidly to be like 15,000.
[Waleeporn]: So, you have the strong technology background, and I think this should help you a lot in running Techsauce, right?
[Mimee]: Yes, it’s a – engineering background can help me to think logically. So, when we want to solve some of the problem, we can think logically. But, another side, I also need to improve my – I called it like a Design Thinking methodology – how to understand the people, how to empathize.
[Waleeporn]: Khun Mimee, could you please share the Techsauce value proposition and what you have done to your tech community?
[Mimee]: Techsauce would like to make like a positive change by providing the space for everyone in Southeast Asia, to share and create insightful information to transform the society between the years as I mentioned before. But when we talking about the society – the society that we are focusing – they are the tech entrepreneur and the corporates who want to transform their business by using the technology. So, the Techsauce’s position – I called itself as an educational hub for tech and innovation. So, to provide the knowledge for every sector, so it is a place for people as well to learn and share developed skill and prepared for the future change. So, if you check about our service, we have online media side – to train the people how to utilize the technique that can be implemented into their business strategy. And another part is off-line event – to connect the local tech eco-system with the global player. The off-line event that I mentioned that call Techsauce Global Summit. So, if you come to Techsauce, you will meet a lot of the venture capital, corporate venture capital and also eco-system builder across the world who participated in this event. And, the last one is the – I called it like a school. It’s an accelerator
program to support the start-up starting from the training part, business matching, and also provide the testing environment. We called it like a ‘Proof of Concept’ – the ‘POC’ to help the start-up, give the opportunity for the start-up to work with the corporate or maybe the government side. So, these are the three main things that we provide the services to our community.
[Waleeporn]: So, you have the media, right? The off-line and on-line event, and also accelerator, right? How do you see the start-up landscape after COVID-19?
[Mimee]: It is really biggest challenge for Thai start-up at this moment because we have seen that COVID-19 pandemic has been shaking start-up eco-system across the globe, not just only in Thailand. Start-up seriously struggled hard with this situation. Techsauce surveyed with the start-ups in our database, and we discovered like 60% of the start-ups have less than six months of cash runway to survive. This is a really sad news. The most impacted industry by COVID-19 – we have known that the travel industry, hospitality service, MICE, even restaurant.
I don’t know that the travel can recover…maybe in the next, maybe not next year – maybe next two years. So, the challenge part is how long they can survive, and might need to utilize the existing resource and turn it to be another kind of business model instead of keep the existing business model that they have. But this is the company that facing the problem. But another side, they still have other opportunities like healthcare, medical, education industry, even like e-commerce, infrastructure, for example, who provide like logistics part, who provide like a fulfillment service.
And another company like digital transformation service provider who develop like a digital signature, who trying to help the corporate to reduce, for example, paperless solution. They have a lot of the opportunities. And medical service, I believe that there is a big opportunity in Thailand because I have checked the statistics from the CEOWORLD website. They mentioned that Thailand ranked No.6 among countries with best healthcare. So, next two or three years in the near future, Thailand can be the hub of medical service.
[Waleeporn]: That’s an interesting statistic. I think that many companies have lots of impact. So, do you have any suggestions of how to turn COVID-19 crisis into opportunity?
[Mimee]: Let me share my experience. I’m also, like, facing the biggest challenge as well during the COVID-19 because we cannot organize the physical event. So, this year we have to turn from the physical event to be the virtual event. But the first thing that we have to do and, the other, would like to recommend other companies to do is, we should prioritize what is the most important thing that we have to do during the crisis. And, number one that I would like to recommend is we need to health-check and monitor our cash runway first — This is very important – and monitor cash-in and cash-out. And how much of the fixed cost and fixed assets that you have. We need to spend money wisely and find out the effective way to cut back our expense.
This is the first thing. And the second thing is related to how to find out the revenue stream, the new revenue stream. So, we should observe and understand customer behavior change. Some behaviors will be changed. Some are not. I don’t want to say that everything will turn to be a new normal, just only some
parts of them. So, we need to understand and analyze it to find out what is the opportunity inside that. And number three, you might have two or three business models in your portfolio company. For example, like myself, I have a revenue stream from media side, revenue from the event, and the event we will breakdown into like sponsorship, ticketing, and another one is a video on-demand service. We have educational portal that we utilize the existing VDO. It’s called like a VDO on-demand service and the fourth one is the accelerator program. We need to balance and manage the existing portfolio between, I called it like exploit and explore. Exploit is like existing business model that we have. So we need to set short-term financial performance goal how much that we should, in terms of, we have to cross-check the runway to support this business model and how much we need to find out the money to cover the business model and improving the business model or maybe think about how to develop the value, the new value proposition for the existing portfolio. But, or the right words, or in another part for long-term solution, I called it’s like to explore the new business model. You need to find out the business opportunity to find out the new growth engine for your company. We can call it is like a new S-Curve for your company.
So, after we realized this is the existing business model, this is a new business model that we want to go, we can analyze and optimize the existing resource in terms of human, in terms of the capital and the last one, during that time, the people is also the human resource in your team is still important resource that you have. You should upskill and reskill the team. For example, my team, for the online media part actually is not impacted by the COVID-19 but for the event part, in terms of the physical event as I mentioned, it is a hundred percent impacted by COVID-19. I have to reskill the team and turn it to be digital.
Currently, they are strong to organize the event by using digital. So, upskill and reskill is very important. So, after this pandemic, I believe that they do not just only have to organize the event off-line, but they can also help me to spin off another business by using digital as well.
[Waleeporn]: So, it will become the hybrid model, right? In the future.
[Mimee]: It can be the hybrid model. I don’t know that how long that we can host the event as a hybrid solution, but yes, frankly speaking, the event, the value proposition of the event is not just only the conference side but face-to-face, have networking with the people. This is the real value because they can connect with the VC. They can connect with the eco-system builder in this region. So, the hybrid can support just only the on-line part and simulate some of the experience from off-line activity, maybe we can set up like a business matching like face-to-face. But if VC want to invest in the start-up, I believe that they want to meet that start-up in person instead of just the way that — that’s only like meet on-line. So, I hope that the COVID-19 pandemic, hopefully, we can come back again in maybe next year or maybe Q3 or Q4 of next year. Hybrid should be like just a short-term solution.
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