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Higher grants, more mentorship support for first-time start-up founders under enhanced programme

Higher grants, more mentorship support for first-time start-up founders under enhanced programme

A woman wearing a face mask walks past commercial buildings in the financial business district in Singapore, Jun 11, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: The grant support for first-time start-up entrepreneurs will be raised to S$50,000, as part of enhancements to a support programme aimed at spurring more new innovative start-ups in Singapore.

The Startup SG Founder programme will also have a three-month venture building programme to groom aspiring entrepreneurs, said Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Thursday (Aug 20).

These details come after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his ministerial statement on Monday that up to S$150 million will be pumped into the Startup SG Founder programme, as part of efforts to continue to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in Singapore.

Making the announcement during a visit to an incubation centre at the Singapore Management University on Thursday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: “We are determined to grow a new generation of companies from Singapore to serve not just the Singapore market, but also the regional and global markets.

“In every crisis, there are always opportunities for us to grow a new generation of companies. And this crisis is no different.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has accelerated some of its initiatives to help local start-ups grow and penetrate new markets, he added.

Mr Chan said Singapore now has a very vibrant start-up scene, with several encouraging developments in recent years including a more diverse range of start-ups beyond Internet platforms and the hiring of both young and mature workers.

Start-ups now are also actively looking for opportunities beyond Singapore.

“This is not just about … solving real world problems but very importantly in this very critical period, they are also helping to create jobs and that is why we wanted to enhance the Startup SG Founder programme to help them,” he said.

READ: About 330 offered jobs with start-ups under SGUnited package between April and June

Introduced in 2017, the programme provides first-time founders with mentorship support and start-up capital grant through accredited mentor partners.

Currently, it provides a start-up capital grant of S$30,000 while requiring start-ups to co-match funds of S$10,000 to the grant.

This start-up capital grant will be raised to S$50,000 to help “extend the runway" for start-ups to develop their business ideas at a time when generating revenue has become "more challenging", ESG said.

The matching amount will remain at S$10,000.

Start-ups must also now be formed with minimally three Singaporeans and/or permanent residents, inclusive of founders. At least two of these must be starting a business for the first time.

On the other hand, the new three-month venture building programme will see appointed venture builders helping new entrepreneurs in areas such as sourcing for innovation, commercialising ideas into scalable businesses and finding capital.

This new three-month initiative will be open to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, during which each participant will receive a monthly stipend of S$1,500.

Venture builders will be selected based on their track record in generating strong ventures, ESG said. 

As a start, the five autonomous universities - Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore University of Social Sciences - will come on board as partners to provide the venture building programme.

These universities will launch their call for applications by end-August.

Meanwhile, start-up founders will continue to receive mentorship from the 50 accredited mentor partners appointed by ESG under the Startup SG Founder programme.

These accredited mentor partners help to identify eligible start-ups based on the uniqueness of their business concepts, feasibility of business models, strength of their management teams and their potential market value.

Reality Detector, a Singapore-based company that is working on a video-based deception detection software, is among the start-ups that have benefited from the Startup SG Founder programme.

The deep tech start-up applied for the grant earlier this year with the help of advisors at the SMU’s incubator, and received the first tranche of funds amounting to about S$15,000 last month.

"The incubator knows that being a deep tech company, we have expensive engineering bills to pay so they were very willing to help us after we showed them what we could do to fulfil some of the milestones,” said co-founder and CEO Dennis Ye.

“Thanks to that, we didn’t go bankrupt because to even raise a seed round, we need to engage expensive lawyers. The (grant) helps to cover working capital needs, which are very critical to go on to the next stage.”

According to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), Singapore now has 3,600 tech start-ups employing about 18,000 people across various industries.

Many of these start-ups are formed in the last five years, said ACE chairman James Tan.

The “very vibrant ecosystem” also includes about 150 venture capital firms and 100 incubators, he added.

Mr Edwin Chow, ESG’s assistant chief executive for innovation and enterprise, said start-ups have contributed to Singapore’s ongoing transformation to an innovation-driven economy.

“Start-ups have an innate ability to adapt and pivot, to quickly spot opportunities and provide effective solutions. This is especially important during crises,” said Mr Chow.

Source: CNA/zl(hs)


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