NRF’s marquee event, bringing together entrepreneurs, capitalists and researchers, kicks off at 9am at the Suntec Convention Hall 403/404 with a short speech from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, announcing an infusion of S$50M in 1-to-1 matching for early stage venture funds.
Details are scarce for now since we’re less than 10 minutes post-announcement, but based on my observation of government innovation and commercialisation initiatives, this sounds like a refresh of NRF’s 5-year old Early Stage Venture Fund started in 2008 that I previously tracked. From that vintage, we saw 6 funds appointed by NRF which would receive S$10M if each fund raised at least S$10M. Of those 6 funds, I believe only Walden International’s Seed IV S$20M fund was actively investing in the TMT space. From Walden’s ESVF fund came investments such as Brandtology, HungryGoWhere, iTwin, Y-Find and Clozette, of which it saw exits from its investments in Brandtology, HungryGoWhere and YFind.
The new announcement will probably go some way to bridging the commonly bandied “Series A funding gap” in Singapore and hopefully give deserving early stage startups the extra working capital to build innovative and regionally or globally relevant technology companies that exit in some form or fashion, and return value to founders, employees and investors. The onus is now on NRF to execute on the ESVF refresh quicker than their first time round in 2008, and hopefully pick more experienced fund managers with strong track record and vested interest in the success of technology companies in the Singapore ecosystem.
Back in 2008, there weren’t that many startups in the seed stage funnel looking to raise their Series A. I’d say NRF had put the cart before the horse by launching their ESVF ahead of TIS back in 2008. Now that there are 90+ or even over 100 TIS incubated startups in the ecosystem, we don’t have 5 more years to get the ESVF right. Everything has to be seamlessly executed to avoid flushing all that good work of revving up our early stage technology scene down the Drain of Broken Dreams.
I’ll end this blurb with some photos from the opening of TechVenture 2013. Till next time.