Ready to scale in Southeast Asia? Start in Singapore.
While people may think of Singapore as a top startup city, what they may not realize is that this city-state potentially has quite a bit more to offer as a local hub when looking to scale throughout the region. This fall, we kicked off Global Launch, a program aimed at building bridges between Singapore and the Silicon Valley. This two-way program brings Singaporean startups here to San Francisco for targeted immersion and education in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and sends another group of global startups to Singapore as they prepare entry into the Southeast Asian market.
We caught up with a few startups from Batch 1 of the Global Launch – SF Program, who have scaled in Singapore and the region, and are now looking towards the US market. These founders are tackling everything from online art, to retail analytics, to fitness and productivity. They found their niche within region, and are now looking to scale beyond. But before they kick off this next phase in their journey, we wanted to get a sense of what they had accomplished in their local market, and how Singapore has helped them get to where they are today.
500: What is the startup ecosystem like in Singapore?
Holistics: “Singapore works well as the corporate headquarters and sales office for South East Asia (SEA). Culturally, Singapore is a melting pot of the cultures from different countries which I believe have contributed to startups having a natural diversity of members from different countries in their team.”
Evie: “The startup ecosystem in Singapore has grown tremendously over the past eight years. Today, there are over 3,000 startups based in Singapore, and the rise of cloud and SaaS will create new opportunities for Singapore to build great global-scale companies.”
Envolve: “It’s energetic, nascent and growing! There is a very strong push from the government and to a certain extent the private sector to promote innovation via various incentive schemes: grants, tax breaks, co-investment, etc. At the same time the ecosystem is just being built and there are still some challenges – most startups work with remote teams due to talent affordability and availability and cost of living is high.”
ELXR: “We have a great ecosystem set up in Singapore, with a good mix of startups, accelerators and VCs/PEs coupled with government support (e.g. Enterprise Singapore and ACE). However, we are pretty “young” in terms of exits and unicorns, so I believe we will have lots of opportunities and growth here, as a gateway into Asia.”
500: What drew you to 500?
Holistics: “500 Startups has an extensive alumni and mentors network, and we believe that we can connect to the right people in our target customer segment profile and refine our messaging.
While researching online for best practices, I chanced on some archive materials of 500 Startups Hell Week, and it shows me the rich knowledge base and expertise 500 Startups has for their portfolio.
Unlike most programs we see, the 500 Global Launch Program was an equity-free program from an established startup accelerator. This makes sense for us to join and learn from the mentors and 500 network even though we don’t have immediate plans to raise funds.”
Evie: “The 500 Global Launch Program is unique because it is focused on helping Singapore startups scale into the US market. The large mentor network provides both expertise and networks necessary to jumpstart growth in the US.”
Envolve: “Its global reputation and brand recognition of course! But also the particular focus of the Global Launch Program to help fast track and de-risk new market exploration.”
Artifact: “We were drawn to 500 Startups for its incredible community, above all of founders and then of mentors, program directors, corporate sponsors and investors. All of our mentors, TK, Dina, Ryan, for this batch were former 500 Startups founders, not only speaking to the value of their program but to the kind of community they foster, one that wants to give back what they learned and help each other thrive.”
ELXR: “500 Startups is one of the top 3 accelerators globally based in Silicon Valley! I participated in 500 Startups Kobe in Japan last year, as the first and only Sports Tech company in Asia to attend. The 500 Startups culture is super awesome — the active learning, the helpful mentors, and most importantly the network of #500Strong alumni that is so powerful. Everybody is so helpful and willing to share and pay it forward.”
500: Do you operate outside of Singapore? If so, what was your experience in expanding into Asia with Singapore as a hub for the region?
Holistics: “Yes. Holistics has over 150 customers in 30 countries around the world, and our team members are based in Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia too. Singapore serves as a great corporate and sales talent hub for the region. Most customers in Asia are comfortable working with us because we are based here. The efficient and effective administration here also saves us lots of time, which frees up more time for us to focus on our business.”
Evie: “We are a global-scale enterprise SaaS company that uses Singapore as a hub for the world – in the Cloud Era, there is no barrier to building for the world.”
Envolve: “We are expanding to Malaysia and Indonesia right now. Singapore makes it easy to travel to these places but ultimately, we know [we] have to hire locally for day to day comms, meeting customers (face to face is still king in this region) and speaking the same language (literally). Our experience so far is probably similar to other startups in that we our working through the structure and our operating process between decision making in Singapore and decentralised delivery/execution teams in the [local] market.”
ELXR: “Yes – ELXR operates in Japan as well. Singapore, as a hub, has great infrastructure set up and everything is orderly and things just work. Singapore also has a strong brand value, and we should use it to our best advantage for expansion into the region.”
500: What do you hope to bring back to Singapore after your time in the US?
Holistics: “Besides growing our US customer base, we believe this program will give us the opportunity to learn from some of the best data people their viewpoints on the future of the data analytics landscape, and the fundamental gaps in their current analytics operation workflows. We will take this insights and incorporate them into our product roadmap.”
Evie: “We hope to transfer the know-how and knowledge of how to market disruptive, next-generation digital technologies to large advanced markets at scale so we can achieve our ambition of transforming the world’s companies.”
Envolve: “Local market knowledge to embed into our product, a better go to market strategy and sharper sales collateral.”
ELXR: “I would like to bring back: Leading technologies from US back to Singapore/Asia, Conglomerates who are looking at partners (ELXR) for their go-to-market in Singapore/Asia, Investments into this region (Singapore/Asia), through ELXR.”
Meet the full batch of the inaugural Global Launch San Francisco Program (Sprint & Bootcamp):
Artifact – We put every student’s art show online so they can build connections, get hired, and grow their fan base.
Bitcurate – Bitcurate is a predictive data analytics for cryptocurrency. We help investors make better decisions and invest profitably by leveraging the latest machine learning model and market sentiment analysis.
DinoMao – DinoMao is a mobile application that allows users to stream and remotely control actual claw machines, the prizes won will be delivered to their doorsteps.
ELXR – ELXR aims to be the Pioneer of Genetics-Based Fitness Ecosystem in Asia.
Ento – ento aims to solve the problem of food insecurity. Our mission is to provide a cheaper, healthier and more sustainable food source for the future.
Envolve.ai – Envolve automates analytics for brick and mortar retailers using AI.
Evie.ai – Evie powers the next wave of intelligent automation across business operations with a next-generation cognitive collaboration platform.
Hawking Instamo – Amazon of money that provides real time cross border payment.
Holistics – Holistics helps data teams set-up a self-service analytics stack with zero code.
Iota Medtech – Iota Medtech is developing an AI priority sorting system to ensure patients requiring immediate medical attention receive it.
Micepad – Micepad is an enterprise event app and event management software.
Pencil – Pencil is a creative AI company providing a generative content platform to e-commerce, brand and agency marketing teams.
Plant Cartridge – Plant Cartridge develops modern farming solutions for both hobby and commercial growers using our patented pending cartridge system and controlled environment precision farming technology.
Wavel – Wavel is a language solutions provider of businesses with a unique approach of AI amalgamated to a human in the loop, achieving 99% accuracy at 10x speed with more than 50% reduction in operation costs.
Interested in scaling to Southeast Asia through Singapore? Applications for Batch 1 of the Global Launch Singapore program – are now open at https://www.global-launch.500.co/apply!
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