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Source: Thailand Startup News  Oct 18, 2019

Becareful Of Scammers In The Thai Startup Industry (An Amusing Experience)

Becareful Of Scammers In The Thai Startup Industry (An Amusing Experience)
Source: Thailand Startup News  Oct 18, 2019
A week ago, I received an unexpected invitation from someone I never knew, on LinkedIn to register either on Bangkok meet up or Eventbrite site to attend a free startup event about how to raise capital or to secure funds and that the organizer who was from UK had  lots of contacts with VC Groups and financiers from UK who were simply dying to find projects to finance in Thailand. The offer sounded terribly tempting.



Though I am to a slight extend, one of the few lucky ones who have my own monies to finance my own projects plus a business partner who is filthy rich, tell me who does not want money and we are always looking for partners or financiers with money since we have lots of projects ongoing and also the idea of having a few more strategic partners onboard sounds like a great idea.

Stupid me, without doing any due diligence, I RSVPed on LinkedIn and as me and my partner ourselves are working with a few family friends in the gems trade to set up a fund in Singapore to help finance medical startups, I thought that it might be a good idea to also meet like an hour before the event to see if we could collaborate in anyway.

The event was held was held last Wednesday at a venue at the Ekamai vicinity. I dragged my business partner and we both drove to the site like 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting with the organizer that was to be one hour before the actual event. It turned out that the venue did not have any parking so we had to park at a small mall nearby and we walked to the venue that turned out to be a cheap beer bar with a huge ‘crude’  ambience.. We asked the Thai staff who told us that the organizer was not there and that it was to be held at a room above. We nevertheless sat and ordered some drinks and food and paid for it while waiting for the organizer and despite sending him LinkedIn messages, he was online but never answered. There were a few patrons at the bar, and we waited for like an hour and there was still a no show and we were so upset and decided to leave. But as we were leaving , a Thai staff told us that a short fat British guy inside was actually the organizer. Feeing upset, we walked in and introduced ourselves to the so called organizer who apologized and as we were like 2 minutes into the conversation, lots of other guests started to appear and this was where the fun started.

The organizer quickly excused himself and we meet an Indian guy and a fat old Thai woman who was trying to pull off an “Earth Sa___g”* look. We had seen them at some previous startup and fintech events. The guy told us that he was an incubator, coach, financier, “ start accreditor “ everything that one could think off in the startup ecosystem! and gave us his namecared that had no telephone contacts of any kind, just email and two websites (that were not completed by the way)and an address that said 999/9 Rama I road…..no unit, no floor level etc…just 999/9… we were impressed …this Indian guy (with a western name had the whole Centralworld complex as his office! Lol! We have like 8 long term clients from Centralworld for our PR Business hence we recognized the address very well!) …. further checks later revealed another dubious character. But mind you, he had an interview online done by another dubious farang character who does online interviews and podcasts interviews etc (that no one ever listens to or reads except those interviewed and their friends and relatives who have been asked to looked at them!) But nevertheless this farang claims that he is an expert at innovations and has millions of followers and a lot of stupid Thai companies and executives actually believe him!

Then we met another slim well-dressed farang investor who had no knowledge about the difference between pre-seed, seed  and the various stages of fundings despite the fact that he claimed he had financed many startups!

The crowd by this time had swelled to about 38 people, including a group of about 6 “Thai office girls” who were trying to find farang boyfriends or even anyone who would buy them a drink. (I just found that most Thai office girls who freelance these days will attend free events listed on meetup.com  or Eventbrite…..not sure we can classify that as a bonafide startup business actually! But I realized that I must have been leading a very sheltered life not knowing what going on in the nether parts of the world.)

Oh forgot, the so called rich and well connected organizer did not move the event up to the room neither did he address the crowd or had an introductory speech or neither did he make any attempt to link people up and there was no catering….just buy your own drinks and of which only about 11 people bought as the rest had no money I guess….lol…really pity the venue owners although the venue in the first place was a dump.

I still decided to try to network but while my business partner started to catch up on his emails on his smartphone. I next met an American guy who told me that his office was at a ‘famous‘ Digital Hub and that (in his own words) he was a strategic business scale up enhancer and also was able to create traction for people. (later found out that he was doing or rather trying to do… digital marketing services and had a website that was not even completed  and had no SEO ranking nor traffic, had no social media platforms but I did manage to locate his private facebook page that only had 2 followers and no likes…wow….impressive…lol! 

Next met another American  retired school teacher that I had met at  other events like 2 years ago in which I remember  that he said that he  could not afford the tea at the venue at that time (ie like Bt50) but he was there as an investor! (but again this time too, he  never bought any drinks to support the venue)

Then met a black American who also had an office at a so called ‘famous’ startup hub and he was  involved in a startup for recruitment but you had to sign up first for membership that was above US1000. (tell me how many Thais are going to do that when we have free LinkedIn plus I for one am not going to pay to support his operations for a new platform that has no credibility yet…. and indirectly pay for his office at that digital hub…lol!)

Along came a British guy who was doing a startup that involved multi-level marketing! (gawd, I was developing a migraine listening to him.) and then there was cute young British guy was claimed that he was doing a startup , but when asked what it was…he said that he was still trying to figure out what to work on but asked if me or my business partner was interested in taking him back home! ????And I thought that I had seen it all!

We meet another British guy who could get us financing if ever we wanted but like he needed 5 thousand US dollars upfront before he would even get a brief from us!

The organizer came back and told us that his programme basically involved startups coming for an pitching event but first they had to pay a membership fee to get invited to events with investors but they were no guarantees that you would get financed or secure financing.

At this stage the both of us decided that it was time to leave but we did enjoy a good chuckle.

The event was simply full of foreign scammers and whores! I experienced less worst startup events on meetup.com a year ago where as usual, a lot of farang digital marketers or farang coaches would come and propose their” wares” despite not having any credible experience or knowledge.One has to be careful in the local Thai startup scene especially with lots of foreign crooks masquerading as whatever.

Do not get me wrong, I am not a racists….I have tons of good friend of various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities and have come across  lots of professional Americans, British and Australians etc  well experienced and far skilled but forget about meeting them at these meetup.com events or at bar venues.

Also always do due diligence before attending such events and becareful who you meet or even give out your cards to. And never, I repeat never initiate any business or payments to people that you meet at such events until you have done relevant due diligence an also have a lawyer with you to protect your interests.
 
Note:  *Earth Sa___g is a prominent Thai PR personnel who is great person but has a unique signature way of dressing and projecting herself to make herself stand out.

I deliberately used the word  farang not meaning any slurs or insults but in a local cosy context to differentiate between real Western Professionals and these types…lol!