The technology start-up scene in Singapore received another boost yesterday as the National Research Foundation (NRF) announced that it will work with six venture capital (VC) funds to make available S$120 million for young local firms.
This is the second round of funding under the NRF’s Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) scheme that was introduced in 2008. Under the initiative, the NRF will co-invest S$10 million on a one-to-one basis with each of the selected funds, in a push to help drive the development of an active tech start-up landscape here.
Professor Low Teck Seng, chief executive officer of the NRF, said: “We recognise that it is very competitive for high-tech start-ups to secure follow-on financing as they have to fight with the best in the region to get VC’s attention.”
“Through this investment, the Government is addressing the gap in Series A funding, which is critical in sustaining the rapid growth of start-ups beyond the seed stage. With their expertise and savvy investments, VCs will help commercialise promising technologies into innovative products.”
The NRF initiative also comes at a time when Singapore tech start-ups are attracting more attention from global investors.
Earlier this month, home-grown messaging company Zopim was acquired by San Francisco-based customer support firm Zendesk for as much as US$29.8 million (S$ 37.4 million). Last month, online beauty retailer Luxola raised US$10 million from investors led by Japanese firm Transcosmos, while cloud developer Nitrous.IO received US$6.65 million from a range of global investors that included Facebook’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
SBI Ven Capital, one of the fund managers selected, said it saw potential in young companies here, which stirred its interest to participate in the scheme.
Its managing director and head of private equity Brijesh Pande said: “(The local start-up scene) is getting into a very exciting phase. The big challenge is being able to commercialise these companies. That’s why we find the scheme very interesting because the intention is to find partners that can help these companies and take them global.”
The other five venture capital funds are Jungle Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, Monk’s Hill Venture, Walden International and New Asia Investments.
Walden International and New Asia Investments were also among the five fund managers involved in the first round of ESVF scheme, which has benefited 24 local start-ups to date. One of the success stories is restaurant review portal HungryGoWhere, which was acquired by SingTel for S$12 million in 2012.
Mr Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman of Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), said growing these companies would offer economic benefits to Singapore.
“When we think about building companies in Singapore, we really want to think whether we are working on big problems, because big problems lead to big investors and big investors help build big companies. That’s really where the economic creation, wealth creation and job creation come from. We have a lot of starting ideas, a lot of great young entrepreneurs. We just need that extra boost,” he said.