* 2014 in Review: Thailand’s startup scene

By Susan Cunningham
Digital News Asia

FOLLOWING months of sporadic protests, the most significant event in Thailand’s year, business or otherwise, was its 12th military coup on May 22 and the installation of a military-controlled government.   Unlike the two most recent coups, in 1992 and 2006, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha doesn’t plan an imminent return to electoral democracy, despite pressure from Western governments.

In the meantime, an appointed committee with no popular participation is in the process of writing the country’s 20th constitution.   One of the junta’s first acts post-coup was to cancel planned auctions of spectrum licences that would enable 4G wireless broadband services throughout the country. There are also signs that the junta might do away completely with spectrum auctions, now required by broadcasting law.  

Consumer and tourist confidence along with computer sales began to revive mid-year, though external factors dampening exports will likely continue in the new year. Overall, growth in the information and technology sector was flat in 2014.   Not surprisingly, only two major investments in Internet startups took place prior to the coup: A Softbank Ventures equity stake in an online games company, and a venture capital score by bookseller Ookbee. MORE

* Rocket’s Asian Ups and Downs

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

Philippine Long-Distance Telephone’s 8.6% stake in Rocket Internet is a no-brainer: Telecom and Internet giant PLDT is a pioneer in online and mobile payments, and Rocket’s own payment system, Payleven, quickly foundered in 2012 when the first Rocket e-commerce sites were being established in Asia.

For many poorer residents the cheap smartphones now flooding into the far reaches of East and South Asia will mean their first access to the Internet, and mobile wallets will make them more likely to become online buyers. As it is now, Rocket’s six Amazon-like general shopping sites in Southeast Asia (called Lazada) as well as its nine Zappos-like apparel sites (Zalora in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, and Jabong in India) offer the option of … MORE

This story appears in the September 2014 issue of Forbes Asia.