Half-day roadshow sees more than 600 participants, with 7 startups featured
Singapore cementing its position as innovation and startup hub, notes minister
IT was an inspiring showcase of disruptive technologies at the inaugural TechCracker Singapore hosted at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Cultural Centre on Oct 7.
Jointly organised by the Li Ka Shing Foundation, Horizons Ventures, NUS Enterprise and Vertex Holdings, the event saw more than 600 participants, comprising students, industry leaders, and representatives from startups and corporations in the country.
With its theme of disruptive technologies and its possibilities, the half-day roadshow featured presentations from seven technology startups – all Horizon Ventures investees – from around the world.
Present at the event as guest of honour was S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Trade and Industry, and Second Minister for Home Affairs.
In his opening remarks, Iswaran (pic) said that it was “apt” for Singapore to host the second leg of this roadshow after its debut in Beijing in May, given the nation’s matured startup ecosystem and recognition as an innovation hub.
“In July this year, INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index ranked Singapore in seventh position, up a position from eighth last year, as the most innovative economy in Asia,” he reported.
Iswaran said that the country’s overall entrepreneurial activity has also increased, pointing to a recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report.
According to the report, total early-stage entrepreneurial activity in Singapore, which represents the percentage of working-age population about to start or who have recently started a new business, has grown from 4.9% in 2006 to 10.7% in 2013.
“The number of employing startups has also increased from 24,000 in 2005, to 42,000 in 2013. Of these, about 15,000 are technology-based startups,” Iswaran said.
Stressing the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship as drivers of the island nation’s economic future, he also took the opportunity to provide an update on some of the Singapore Government’s efforts in nurturing this growth.
Startups with technologically innovative or disruptive ideas can tap on SPRING Singapore’s Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme or TECS, which provides funding for proof-of-concept or proof-of-value projects.
Iswaran said that the scheme has funded about 170 technology projects since its inception in 2008, while SPRING Singapore’s Startup Enterprise Development Scheme (SEEDS) also provides innovative startups with equity-based co-financing.
“As you can see, we like our acronyms,” he quipped.
In addition, to support the growth of innovative companies with high Intellectual Property (IP) content, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) launched the IP Financing Scheme last year to enhance their access to financing using their IP as collateral.
JTC Corporation, the country’s principal developer and manager of industrial estates, is also further developing [email protected]-north to build on the success of the Block 71 infrastructure for startups. Two more blocks (Blocks 73 and 79) are being developed, to create a comprehensive startup launchpad called JTC [email protected]-North.
“The two new blocks will provide space for promising startups and incubators, and are slated for completion by end-2014," Iswaran said.
“This is expected to double the size of the community located at one-North to 500 startups and 2,000 people,” he added.
Inspiring the next generation
In his opening speech, NUS president professor Tan Chorh Chuan (pic) said that the university “believes very strongly” in the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, both in terms of nurturing and supporting entrepreneurial students and faculty, as well as at an institutional level.
He highlighted the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme as one such example. NOC allows undergraduate students to intern in startups in some of the world’s most vibrant entrepreneurial hotspots while taking courses in partner universities.
He also pointed to NUS Start-Up Runway, a programme under NUS Enterprise – the university’s commercialisation arm – that offers a suite of entrepreneurship support services including incubation space, seed funding, mentorship and connections to external venture investors, potential customers and networking platforms.
“We are very encouraged that in recent years, these efforts have helped launch over 350 NUS startups, largely set up by our students or alumni,” Tan said.
In introducing the TechCracker roadshow, Tan called the event a “celebration of innovative and cutting-edge technologies,” with the event’s ultimate aim to inspire its students and attendees.
Next Page: The startups on display