Singapore’s IIPL boosts startup ecosystem with a dash of BASH
By Gabey Goh February 12, 2015
- 25,000 sq ft space provides prototyping lab, mentorship and community networks
- ‘Our goal is to bring it all together, throw a few parties, and see how things go’
INFOCOMM Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL), the investment arm of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has officially launched BASH (Build Amazing Startups Here), touted as the nation’s biggest integrated startup space.
Located at Block 79 JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, the 25,000 sq ft space will provide all the necessary facilities – including a prototyping lab, valuable mentorship and community networks – to grow promising, innovation-driven tech startups, according to IIPL.
Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who officially launched the new facility, acknowledged the challenges that young startups face in “turning their ideas into fruition.”
“A conducive ecosystem could help them to succeed and the Government is committed to building Singapore’s tech entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Our aim is to cultivate startup growth through the value chain, from ideation, acceleration and incubation to expansion, to build a strong pipeline of Singapore tech startups,” he said in his keynote speech.
At the launch event, the minister also announced that IIPL has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with media organisation Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Sunnyvale, California-headquartered global accelerator Plug and Play.
Under the MoU, the three parties will work toward a corporate accelerator programme that will build high growth, innovation-driven Singapore-based digital media startups, with a first run targeted to commence by the middle of this year.
SPH chief executive officer Alan Chan noted that the media industry is undergoing many changes today, and this “also presents opportunities for young entrepreneurs to contribute their ideas and create an impact in the industry.
“We are delighted to work with IIPL and Plug and Play on an accelerator programme to discover and support outstanding startups that will make a difference to our media scene.
“We have also invested in Glints through our SPH Media Fund, which would continue to fund promising early stage ventures," he added.
Glints, a career discovery and development platform for, recently secured a seed round of S$475,000 (approximately US$380,000) and will be the first startup team to benefit from BASH, where it will continue building its product and business under the mentorship of IIPL and other partners.
Startup teams that have undergone acceleration can also be housed at a co-working and collaboration space in BASH to continue receiving guidance as they build business traction and market access.
IIPL, which established a presence in London last October and most recently at Block 71 San Francisco, will also help the startups in their overseas expansion to these leading tech-innovation hubs.
The IDA’s investment arm will also curate local and global data challenges, helping young tech builders tap on open data sets and develop big, scalable ideas that can tackle worldwide challenges, it said.
Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman of IDA and chairman of IIPL, said “great progress” has been made in having global partners such as the European accelerator Startupbootcamp set up a FinTech-focused operation here in Singapore.
“As part of Singapore’s journey to be a Smart Nation, we are also working on some really tough global challenges brought on by the inevitable trends of an ageing population and [increasing] urban density.
“That’s the purpose of having BASH, the go-to-place for tech builders, investors and innovators to do more great things together,” he said.
Putting the pieces together
During a Q&A session with the media, Leonard (pic) said that BASH is a “very simple concept,” with the intent to offer a place for members of the startup community to connect and interact with each other.
“This is another step to Singapore gaining momentum with the global startup community. Our role is to provide the space and the tools. The idea is the more great things we can put in one spot, the more great things that can happen.
“We find sometimes that if there is too much separatism and [too many] silos, then some of these great ideas get locked up – so our goal is to bring it all together, throw a few parties, and see how things go,” he added.
Leonard declined to share how much IDA and IIPL invested into the facility, only noting that it was a “not a small investment” given the expansive space, but adding that the dozens of experienced mentors active in the scene that BASH hopes to give a base to, is where the real value lies.
“Space is merely our contribution to this initiative, and from the perspective of having all these great mentors sharing their experience with the local community, it’s hard to put a value on it,” he said.
Leonard also said that BASH seeks to play a “complementary” role to the existing landscape of similar startup facilities and does not “intend to displace or replace anyone.”
Asked about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place for BASH and its other ecosystem-building initiatives, Leonard said that his agency does have internal targets, but no strict KPIs.
“KPIs can be met if we twist and turn sufficiently hard enough, but that’s not what we want to do. We can always meet a KPI, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing the best possible thing.
“Building great companies and have people feel that Singapore is a great place to do that – that’s our reward. And if we gauge it on ‘how many of this’ or ‘how many of that,’ then we’ll be missing something important,” he added.
Getting them home
During his opening remarks, minister Yaacob had also expressed a wish for more successful entrepreneurs to return to Singapore to share and give back to the ecosystem.
Asked about any specific initiatives IDA intends to pursue to achieve that, Leonard said the agency did not have any.
“We’re always talking to great Singapore engineers overseas. We just talk to people to know what’s on their mind, what their values are, and try to present them with opportunities for them to come home.
“That’s not to say that it’s a structured programme with incentives because that’s not the way great entrepreneurs and builders work,” he said.
Leonard pointed to a trip made by Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, to California last week, during which he met dozens of young Singaporeans studying at universities or working there.
“They were all interested in what was happening in Singapore with the Smart Nation vision and the question raised was what role they can play.
“So we try to keep an open dialogue going, keep them informed and present opportunities like BASH for them to come back and spend some time in Singapore – perhaps a couple of weeks in the beginning, and maybe even longer after that,” he said.
In conjunction with the BASH launch, IIPL also held the finals of its Tyro.VC competition which aims to discover budding young investment associates, and in parallel, good early-stage young innovation-driven tech startups, through a first-of-its-kind reality show.
Members of the Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) Global Network, led by US venture capitalist Tim Draper, were also at BASH to interact with successful local tech startups such as HungryGoWhere and Zopim.
Draper shared insights with the local tech community on early-stage venture capital investments.
IIPL’s accelerator partner, Startupbootcamp FinTech, held a ‘MentorFest’ to connect with other mentors in Singapore’s ecosystem, to grow its community network for the first run of its accelerator programme in May.
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