Walking the entrepreneurial talk
By Sharmila Ganapathy May 20, 2019
- There are 90-plus global experts from across 15-plus countries on the platform
- Each startup undergoes at least six to eight assessments during the 10 weeks
TIME and again, we’ve heard news of accelerators in the Southeast Asian region failing, some of which have failed because they weren’t meeting or understanding the needs of startups and their founders.
Singapore-based post-accelerator platform Startup-O doesn’t plan to go the way of such accelerators. One of the platform’s unique attributes is that the assessors of the startups that join the platform’s Fasttrack Assessment Programme are established entrepreneurs themselves.
“Entrepreneurs who have a proven product-market fit with early revenues and traction can now prove themselves to other entrepreneurs who are evaluators on the platform, along with other domain experts,” Startup-O chief executive officer Anuj Jain (pic, right) tells Digital News Asia in a phone interview.
“We have 90-plus global experts from across 15-plus countries on the platform who comprise serial entrepreneurs, technology and domain experts.” During the course of the 10-week online programme, the experts assess various startups that are recommended by networks of institutional partners, experts and other founders.
Anuj adds that each startup undergoes at least six to eight assessments during the 10 weeks, via online, through video introductions and chats, which allow “detailed diligence and constructive feedback”.
The Fasttrack programme is currently in season nine and in the recently-concluded season eight selection round, eight Singaporean startups and one Malaysian startup made it to the top 25 list.
“These 25 startups are still in the frame for investment considerations, so they are still going to get assessed for their technology and investment ability.
“We announce their names on our social channels but the final rankings are not public and that will be given to different investment fund ICs to decide the final outcome. Secondly, some companies will get investment, other companies will get networks to boost the sales of their products which is called the venture building programme.
“The third level of engagement involves all others who participated but couldn’t rank up become part of the alumni programme. This helps with multiple other resources on the platform in their journeys and they are free to come back to participate to access capital again,” Anuj explains.
Season eight had most of the 25 startups from India, Singapore and Indonesia. “Thailand and Vietnam are picking up, but since it’s a global platform we also get a fair bit from Europe and other parts of the world as well. In Southeast Asia, Singapore is very evolved in term of government policies and the ecosystem is quite vibrant.”
Jimmy Boey (pic, above), founder and CEO of Jebhealth, a Singaporean startup that made it to the top 25, commended the Fasttrack programme for bringing in real experts that pointed them in the right direction. Jebhealth operates an online marketplace for healthcare services with a focus on preventive care in Southeast Asia.
“Apart from being a rite of passage, it helped us structure the information that we have as a startup in a more succinct manner,” he says, adding that the conversations with different experts was a plus point, as opposed to pitching your idea on a stage to an audience that may not fully understand your business.
Tharma Indran (pic, right), CEO of BNetworks Sdn Bhd, the only Malaysian startup in the list that is a smart home solutions provider says that the platform has been very user-friendly.
“The first round was online questions by experts, from different domains…they know what IoT is all about and what sells and what doesn’t. That was value-added, in terms of connecting with these experts and obtaining their feedback,” he says.
On the platform itself, he says: “We really appreciated the concept, and then we linked to the judges from investment side after we made the top 25 list who talked to us about our positioning. At the end of the day, instead of shooting you down, these expert judges really want to see your business grow. The online advice was helpful to us to refine our pitch deck and strategy. The platform model definitely works for us.”
We asked Startup-O’s Anuj what startups from Malaysia and other developing Southeast Asia countries need to do to be globally competitive.“You know some of them have to take responsibilities to find the strength and weaknesses not only for their startups but also for the ecosystem they are operating in. It helps to play along with more evolved ecosystems early on as this will help them to access right resources and whether this comes in form of capital, visibility or networks.
“Startup-O is bringing more transparency and efficiency in a geography and industry that is very fragmented and opaque.”
Anuj acknowledges that there is great work being done in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. However, these startup founders are at a disadvantage compared to those in Singapore. That said, a platform like Startup-O allows these founders to access not only Singapore capital but global networks from their hometowns.
He advises that startups start thinking big not in a cliched way from day one. “Many of the startups are just sometimes fixing a small local problem or copying some model elsewhere.
“They need to think through how to build a viable business and scale it to make it stakeholder participation worthy. Therefore, learning from the best in other ecosystems and leveraging on the strengths in the local ecosystem in this connected world is the way to go,” he concludes.