Starting a Web Design Business in Bangkok with Adam Wintle, MD of Monogon

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Adam, please introduce yourself and Monogon…

Monogon is a web design and development agency based in Bangkok, Thailand. We offer services to small and new businesses or startups and also consult for larger organisations and institutions. The company has been officially incorporated in Thailand for about one year but I’d been using the name for a little time before that.

How did you get the idea of starting Monogon?

For many years I’d been a freelancer; with my background in design and media I’d been designing logos and websites for years.

I decided to leave the UK in 2010 and head to Madrid, Spain where I tested remote working for six months. I learnt that it doesn’t really matter where you are in the world, as long as you deliver to your clients then everything pretty much runs smoothly. Then in 2011 a friend invited me to Thailand for a three week holiday and I’m still here now!

When I arrived in Thailand I continued to work as a freelancer from various coffee shops; but I’d always had a dream of running my own small web agency. With the lower costs of living and a good network of local talent I decided to take my first steps in building my agency.

In a nutshell, what is the current state of the web design industry in Bangkok?

The web design and tech industry is growing very rapidly, in the years I have been here I’ve seen it grow from a small community which fits into someone’s lounge to a thriving community which fills a hotel seminar room.

Now with numerous web, mobile and tech meetups happening almost weekly, I feel I’ve made the right choice in settling here in Bangkok, the state of the local industry couldn’t be growing any quicker.

What opportunities do you see emerging in the Thailand’s web design and development industry?

I’m noticing there are many startups which have been tried and tested in regions such as New York City and London, but the same ideas haven’t been tried in South-East Asia; there’s a lot of startups coming here and setting up similar ideas and thriving.

These new influx of startups moving to the region gives companies like mine opportunities to grow rapidly, whereas in London it may have been harder.

What are the challenges of running a web design business in Bangkok?

I’d say the biggest challenge has been local communication, hiring and recruiting. There’s an abundance of talent in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the other surrounding countries. A lot of the local programmers and designers have a passion for the modern tech culture and don’t all want to work for a large corp. But for me finding the talent, conducting interviews, testing the candidates and deciding on who to hire has been a lot of hard work.

I found offering to speak at local universities or dropping in at the end of a lecture of 30 mins and doing a presentation has been a good way to promote my company and find some great designers and programmers.

I’ve also found hiring an “office manager” who is fluent in both English and Thai has been a useful addition to the team for just helping with any day-to-day communication issues which come up.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs looking to venture into Thailand to start a startup/business?

There’s two pieces of advice I’d give to anyone starting a new venture here. The first is find a good lawyer with a solid reputation. Sometimes South-East Asia feels a bit like the Wild West, and its always good to be legally protected and to have contracts in place because there are tricksters and deceitful people here.

The second is research everything as thoroughly as you can, more than you usually would back home. I’ve asked numerous friends and business associates about various business-related things before moving forward. Sometimes you’ll find conflicting information about how the legal system works, so I’ve found its always best to get a second opinion on most things.

What is the best way to become a part of the business community in Bangkok to meet people and make connections?

Facebook groups and meetup.com, there’s probably over 10 Facebook groups dedicated to local Bangkok business and web related topics with regular meetups posted on meetup.com

I’ve found just attending and being armed with a set of business cards has been the easiest way to make friends and become part of the community.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of doing business in Bangkok/Thailand vs. other countries in the region?

From what I have seen I’d say the biggest strength is the local cost of living vs. other regions. For a small agency like mine a company in New York or Hong Kong can offshore a project to me for a very cost effective price, I can hire an equally good programer for sometimes a fifth or third of the price of a programmer in NYC.

Bangkok and other South-East Asian countries doesn’t have the stigma and reputation of low-quality programmers from Bangladesh or India and also doesn’t have the problem of cheap services shipped out from China. This gives South-East Asia and Bangkok a unique edge where we can build a community of top-quality and good price outsourcing opportunities.

The weakness of this is the huge distances of working remotely can sometimes bring doubts and extra questions of trust to a client’s mind. Sometimes kickstarting a project can be hard work because some element of trust must be established.

Apart from a tech focused business, what business opportunities do you see emerging in Thailand right now?

From what I have seen property and hospitality businesses are booming, so if you’re not interested in starting a tech company here then I’d certainly look into property.

What’s next for Monogon?

Now I have built up a solid team and a network of good freelancers and sub-contractors I’m in a position where I can focus on clients, clients, clients and project, projects, projects and really see how much I can build up this web agency.

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