HomeInterviewAppsynth seeks to expand through IP creation, partnership with clients

Appsynth seeks to expand through IP creation, partnership with clients

Appsynth Asia Co Ltd, a digital innovation consultancy, is looking for business expansion overseas after 13 years of existence in Thailand, its CEO and founder Bob Gallagher says.

The Bangkok-based digital startup is looking to partner with its certain clients to create a “super app” expected to pave the way for “this next chapter of our growth”, he said in his interview with The Story Thailand.

Appsynth is considering fund-raising – possibly a series A first significant round of venture capital financing – for the company’s international expansion, according to the 38-year-old CEO.

“We’re looking at the possibility of building our platform around open innovation. This is one area that we would probably need to raise some funds. Another is that if we’re interested in becoming real partners with clients, that means we might need to also invest in some of those businesses. … We need to look at fund-raising if we want to do it at a large enough scale,” Gallagher said.

According to him, his company currently has no outside investment. “100% of our shares are held by current employees,” he said.

‘Serious investment’ in IP

Appsynth’s external valuation is over 500 million baht, according to the CEO. He said his company is looking for 100 million baht in funding for “a serious investment” in its intellectual property (IP) expansion project. And he was convinced that it would take a year and a half for the project to start generating revenue on its own. 

“But it really depends on the ideas, and there are a few different ideas we’re exploring. … What would be valuable is something that could enable us to do our service better, faster, or differently,” Gallagher said.

For him, super apps are a recurring theme and a trend. “Within that open innovation, we find a very interesting area which at the moment we don’t see any platform that is really enabling this, especially not in this market. Even globally, there’s not really anyone that’s being that middle layer between the different third parties and the potential super apps.”

He views this as “one area of opportunity” for Appsynth. “We have very specific ideas on what we could be doing for that. But just now [we’re] deciding what’s the right starting point. We want to do it with one or two clients in mind.”

“We have the perfect opportunity to validate right now without actually building anything, by pre-selling and getting those partners on board. We’re starting to have some conversations on what their vision of the super app will be and what kind of role we can play in them.” 

Making moves carefully

When asked about the plan’s timeline, the CEO said: “We would be looking to validate this year and start to build next year. Some of the things we’re already working on can potentially progress to IP.”

However, he added that such a move would be taken carefully. “We don’t want to jump into it. From the client’s experience, jumping in and building the wrong thing is not the way to go. We’re making sure that we’re careful with all of our planning and validation before we jump in.”

The CEO said that Appsynth would continue to be a consultancy in its “new chapter” while the company is “trying to be IP enabled”.

“We can deliver our services in a different way. We are looking to be like an ecosystem enabler – helping big brands enable open innovation so that they can build their own ecosystems,” he said.

A fast-growing tech firm

His 13-year-old company has a team of 150, but Gallagher prefers to describe it as a start-up. 

“We have that startup mentality. For every product we’re creating a new business for a client, that’s a startup. We’re in startup mode. We’re helping clients get into startup mode, validating as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Everything we do is very much still in the way of startups. Now we’re 150 people and we’ve existed for 13 years. By some people’s definition, that might not be a startup, but I still think the culture is that of a startup.”

According to its website, Appsynth’s clients include many companies that are market leaders in Thailand and elsewhere, including True Corp, SCG, Line, 7-Eleven, Toyota, Bayer, HSBC, and Frasers Property.

Appsynth – which is headquartered in Bangkok with offices in Singapore and London – is one of the fastest-growing tech firms in the Asia-Pacific, according to the Financial Times’ annual ranking of high-growth companies. 

It is ranked second among Thai companies and 153rd overall in the region. Appsynth is the number one Thai firm and among the top 10 in Southeast Asia in the IT and software category. 

According to the Financial Times, Appsynth posted annual revenue of US$9.96 million (344.6 million baht) in 2021, up from $2.21 million (76.4 million baht) in 2018, representing a growth of 370%.

Hailing from UK 15 years ago

Gallagher, who has lived in Thailand for 15 years, hails from the United Kingdom. He moved to Thailand in 2008 at the age of 23 without knowing anyone here.

“I had only been here briefly as a tourist, but I found it an exciting place. The business I was working in had an office in Kuala Lumpur, so I had been doing some business with Asia and I felt it was a place I wanted to spend more time,” he said. 

“I had never imagined back then that I would still be here 15 years later. But I saw that it was an exciting economy.”

After years of living in Thailand, Gallagher said he realised that the country is “actually very ahead of the curve in a lot of consumer adoption of technology”.

His initial business plan was to build a startup in Thailand without necessarily focusing on the country as a market while trying to find customers elsewhere.

“But the more I learned about the market, I actually thought that there was a real opportunity to focus here, not just to be based here. [We] make Thailand the key focus for our business,” said the CEO. 

Encounter with digital disruption

Gallagher said that his background was in the music industry before his shift to the technology sector. 

“When I was 18, I founded my first business, which was a record label [based in London]. So, I didn’t go to university. I decided to learn business by doing and didn’t really have much theory or background. So, I made a lot of mistakes along the way.”

That was a time when the music industry started to suffer from digital disruption. “This was a time when there was Napster and Pirate Bay kind of illegal downloads and file sharing going on.  There were not yet services like Spotify and legal streaming services, so it was a very challenging time to make a financially sustainable business. But it showed me how digital was really changing and disrupting industries in very fast ways.”

It was an “eye-opener” for him about the power of digital technology. 

Later he became the head of music at a mobile content distributor based in London. “We would work with all of the big record labels and distribute their music to telcos. Back then the only way to get music on your phone was to download through your operator. Again, this industry was disrupted a couple of years later,” Gallagher said.

When the revolutionary iPhone smartphone came out in 2007, people no longer downloaded music from their telcos and this whole business died.

“As the App Store launched, I saw that this was the future. Being involved in mobile at the time, I decided that was really the area that I wanted to focus,” Gallagher told The Story Thailand.

Shortly after moving to Thailand, he studied an online MBA program in 2008 without having a bachelor’s degree. 

“I’d skipped university, but I still felt after doing that first startup there was some theory that would be useful to support that experience. The university recognised my experience as a startup founder, and they allowed me to jump onto the MBA program,” the Appsynth CEO said. 

“I wrote my thesis on starting an app business in Asia. And as soon as I finished it, I founded Appsynth.”

After one and a half years of study, Gallagher obtained his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Liverpool, UK, in 2010.



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