#Asia Governments should support startups, not chase FDI: Conor Bracken


The Founder and CEO of the content localisation company is a featured keynote speaker at Echelon Thailand 2015 to be held on November 26-27 at Bangkok’s BITEC

Andovar Founder and CEO Conor Bracken

Andovar Founder and CEO Conor Bracken

Many of us dream of becoming an entrepreneur, but it remains just a dream since we don’t have the guts to take risks in life or don’t want to leave the cushion of the plumb job we currently have.

Conor Bracken, Founder of Andovar Localisation Solutions, has a piece of advice for such dreamers.

“Entrepreneurship is not only about dreams; you need more if you want your business to fly,” he says in an interview to e27.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Prototype and gauge market response to find a niche, avoid copying others and find a way to stand out from the crowd. Identify your weaknesses and either work on them, or hire to support areas where you find yourself to be lacking. You need to be prepared for extreme stress during the early stages, and even if your business idea catches on, scaling will be more difficult than expected,” he advises.

Bracken, originally from Dublin (Ireland), has been living in Thailand since 1992. With a background in Computer Science, he first worked in Hong Kong before moving to Bangkok, where he pitched an idea of setting up a translation division at one of the largest English language school chains in Thailand and was hired to create it with only one full-time staff.

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Within one year, the unit grew to a team of 21. Initially, the focus was on Thai translation, but after realising that most companies from the West struggle with all complex scripts of the region, Bracken added other Southeast Asian languages to the service list. After gaining experience and confidence, he decided to set up an independent company where he would have more control.

As CEO, he grew this company to over 100 staff before leaving to found Andovar in 2007. Bracken was also one of the Founding Directors of the Irish-Thai Chamber of Commerce in 2003.

What is Andovar?

Headquartered in Singapore, Andovar offers services ranging from text translation and content creation (through audio and video recording) to turnkey localisation of websites, apps, software, e-learning, video and games.

The solutions cover all services needed for complete localisation of content. It includes not just translation, but also recording of new audio, adding subtitles, adapting images and videos to new markets, integration of localised assets and functional and linguistic testing of the product before delivery and publishing.

The company has its own audio studios in Bangkok and in-house teams of engineers, project managers, desktop publishing experts and audio/video production technicians.

Aside from Thailand and Singapore, Andovar has operations in India, US and Colombia.

Government should support startups instead of chasing FDI

Andovar's Bangkok office

Andovar’s Bangkok office

According to Bracken, Thailand as a market has the know-how and infrastructure to compete globally, as well as a young, diverse and multi-national population. The barriers to entry in starting up a new company have never been lower.

Entrepreneurship in Thailand used to be primarily driven by family businesses. Nowadays, Thais are increasingly striking out on their own or with friends. Following the global trend, they create innovative companies, especially in disruptive or technology intensive industries rather than sticking with older business models.

“The new model of entrepreneurship in Thailand emphasises knowledge of local markets and emerging trends rather than personal connections. Unfortunately, governments of all colours are still chasing large scale FDI instead of building a supportive environment for startups,” he adds.

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“However, Thailand remains a challenging place for startups for a variety of reasons such as problems with foreign ownership of business, high accounting costs and poor standards, poor access to financing, FX issues, auditing fees and poor banking; poor English and high taxes and extra taxes such as withholding taxes,” he tells e27.

Drawing a parallel between Thailand and Singapore, Bracken says, “In 2007, the startup ecosystem in Thailand was non-existent, whereas Singapore has always been a centre for entrepreneurship. Back in 2007, Thailand startups were family-run businesses and there was little in the way of VC money, events, working spaces or even an understanding of what startups could achieve. Today, the gap between Thailand and Singapore is narrowing, but the legal, accounting and financial framework in Thailand still lags behind as much as ever.”

A good product is not enough to be successful

According to Bracken, it’s important to understand and learn from failures and not to easily blame external factors out of your control. “Failure as an entrepreneur generally means that either the idea did not meet a true market need, or that idea was not scalable or [it was] too easily copied. Other causes of failure are a weak management team, insufficient funding as well as sheer dumb luck or bad timing,” he adds.

“In my own case, I met some early setbacks by focussing too much on what I was best at, rather than what the market needs. I also didn’t initially pay enough attention to areas outside of marketing, sales and production. I figured that a good product would be enough. It took me some time and some bad experiences to comprehend all the necessary ingredients that make a successful recipe for entrepreneurship,” he concludes.

Want to hear more from Conor Bracken? She will be speaking at Echelon Thailand this November 26 – 27. Join us as we connect the Mekong region through Bangkok, Thailand in two action-packed days. Learn more about Echelon Thailand here.

The post Governments should support startups, not chase FDI: Conor Bracken appeared first on e27.

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