HomeInterviewSiri Ventures invests more in technology startups

Siri Ventures invests more in technology startups

Sansiri Group seeks to define and develop ‘future living’

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the major operators in Thailand’s property sector to make immediate changes, particularly involving security, to boost the morale of their residents.

Siri Ventures, the technology arm of leading real-estate developer Sansiri, has adopted contactless technologies over the past few months so residents can avoid touching doors, faucets, and other regular points of contact. And helping residents to use the new technologies is a Home Service application. It includes an e-Stamp feature that allows electronic registration of visitors, and services are available for contactless delivery of parcels between residents and the administration office.

Siri Ventures’ Chief Technology Officer Jirapat Janjerdsak told The Story Thailand that the COVID-19 crisis had led to short-term adjustments, because people have changed their behavior. For example, more and more people are doing their shopping online; they are avoiding unnecessary contacts and are observing social-distancing rules. He believes that all of these practices will remain even after the crisis is past, and will play a prominent role in shaping future living trends.

He pointed out that the ability to work from home had become a popular topic of discussion; people were trying to shun crowded places, and it was likely that all of these things would influence the way consumers thought about buying houses, whether the ‘houses’ were apartments in a high-rise or units in a suburban estate.

“We are trying to find out what the residents are really looking for. For example, we try to have Wifi covering every part of a residential project. Safety is a top priority for residents, and we need to make sure they are at ease,” Jirapat said. “But the priorities may change order sometimes – such as during the COVID-19 crisis. We had to develop the e-Stamp system to reduce the need for contact as much as possible,” he said.

Siri Ventures focuses equally on four areas of new technology – as it affects construction, management, life and well-being, and sustainability.

Jirapat said that with advances in construction technology, the parent company is able to build houses faster, and with lower costs. Management technology helps with sales and running the organization, while technology for life and well-being helps the residents to live happily. Finally, technology for sustainability will feature in the latter half of this year, when the company will focus its investment interest on sustainable energy.

“We believe that our residents have felt a rather heavy impact from the pandemic. Everyone needed to stay home, and they used a lot of electricity,” he said. “We are working on clean energy solutions like electric vehicles and power-generating wind turbines. We are also pushing for the introduction of a Smart Meter in the second half of the year, so that residents can see how much electricity and tap water they are using. We can help them to save through recommendations and learning systems.”

Currently, tests are being conducted on energy exchanges between buildings, using a blockchain system. Part of this study aims to determine whether residents can be allowed to generate energy for their own use from sunlight or wind. Meanwhile, the company has invested in a project that will install an EV charging system that tells residents when chargers are available and allows users to make reservations.

Focusing on technology development and selling services to boost revenue

Jirapat said Siri Ventures served as a corporate venture capital (CVC) business to support its parent, Sansiri. The firm has already started to make money from outside business projects. For instance, insights from residents using the Home Service app have made it possible to generate income from other projects.

Last year, the company formed a partnership with the National Science and Technology Development Agency to develop a technology ecosystem called PropTech Sandbox.

The project develops self-driven vehicles, including transportation drones, and this is its second year. Participating startups benefit from the fact that their experiments can be carried out on real sites with actual residents.

Overseas investments are also expected into projects involving Smart City and Home Security technologies.

Planning to invest more in startups; encouraging employees to establish startups
After the COVID-19 crisis, Jirapat expects that startups will be more flexible, because CVCs will want to invest in startups that can adapt better. Almost all startups in Siri Ventures’ portfolio – both overseas and local – have been affected by the Covid pandemic. Some have had to postpone the launch of their products, while others have been forced to cut employment costs.

“This crisis has a downside and an upside as well. CVCs now have to look carefully at the companies in their portfolio to see how well they are, and what can be done to help them,” he said.

Siri Ventures plans to invest in three or four more startups. Most of them will provide solutions in the four areas of technology mentioned earlier. However, the company is also interested in startups working on technologies that provide solutions for future living.

Jirapat said Thailand had a large number of CVCs, offering a large pool of opportunities for startups in different industries. He suggested that startups should approach CVCs and try to get them to buy their ideas, because investments have been delayed by the pandemic and CVCs have seen their budgets amassing tremendously.

“For example, we had an investment budget of Bt1.5 billion over the past two and a half years. We are not serious about what stage of development the startup has reached, but it must have a product that works, to an extent, and is beginning to attract customers. Also, we should be able to work together. They should allow us to be co-investors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sansiri’s “The Founder” project is encouraging the company’s employees to create businesses out of problems. It promotes entrepreneurship among its employees, encouraging them to come up with innovations to solve problems. Siri Ventures provides assistance, ranging from training to revisions of work, presentations, creating prototypes, and funding for the teams to hire developers.

Later this year, The Founder is expected to become a new company – another affiliate under the Sansiri Group. It plans to recruit a second batch of aspiring entrepreneurs.
“It is difficult to turn salaried employees into entrepreneurs.

Some of their ideas are good, with the potential to increase efficiency, but they are unscalable. Ideas with marketable potential are often drawn into The Founder project,” Jirapat said.



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