SINGAPORE-based adtech startup Pencil has raised S$1.5 million through a seed round led by early-stage venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners, together with SGInnovate and talent investor Entrepreneur First.
The Straits Times reported that Reefknot Investments, SGInnovate, Switzerland-based transport and logistics firm Kuehne + Nagel, and supply chain expert Wolfgang Lehmacher signed an MOU yesterday to set up a think-tank to spearhead changes in the supply chain and logistics industry. Mr Kong Wai Wei, a global supply chain director at Starbucks Corporation, is also participating in the initiative as an individual member. Over the next 12 months, the think-tank will focus on key themes such as disruptions resulting from changes in consumer behaviour and the issue of sustainability. According to Pang Heng Soon, Head of Venture Building at SGInnovate, global VC investments in logistics totalled almost S$27.5 million over the past decade, with 80 percent taking place in the “last five years or less”, which presents an opportune time for winners to emerge on both the vendor side (suppliers of technological solutions) as well as on the user side (logistics players that are looking for tech solutions for higher efficiencies and effectiveness).
Holmes Report published an article from the panel discussion “Artificial Intelligence + The Future of Communications” at the IN2Summit Asia Pacific, where the panellists discussed how AI has changed the role of communications practitioners. According to research from MIT Technology Review, 45 percent of respondents believe that Asia will lead the world in the development of ethics and governance than any other region, as compared to only a quarter who sees North America as the ethics frontrunner. On the topic of ethics, Grace Chiang, deputy director of comms for SGInnovate noted that regulation is always playing catch-up with technology and cited the challenges of setting ethical standards due to ethics being “culturally defined”. While the core of being a communicator remains the same, which is to share a compelling message to the right audience, Grace said that technology that surrounds that core will augment the job of a communicator.
Deal Street Asia featured an article based on interviews with industry experts and startup founders, including responses from an email interview with Pang Heng Soon, Head of Venture Building at SGInnovate, on the funding struggles that Southeast Asian Deep Tech startups are facing. Although the region is awash with venture money, Deep Tech startups are seeing little of it. To illustrate the laggard of Deep Tech startup growth, the article featured a graph from the SGInnovate Insights paper, “Deep Tech Investments: Realising the potential”, showing that the percentage of Deep Tech startups continue to hover around 5-6 percent for the last 15 years. Heng Soon highlighted that while there are strong and consistent investments from the public sectors in areas like AI, MedTech, Quantum Computing and agrifood tech, he wishes to see a better rate of investments from the VC community. Meanwhile, the lack of risk-on investing among VCs is being filled up by the Singapore Government. Rohit Jha, CEO and co-founder of Transcelestial, said that government-backed agencies like Enterprise SG have shown themselves willing to take early bets. He added that seed investors should lead the rounds, which will make the biggest difference for a Deep Tech company trying to get off the ground.
TTG Asia reported that Expedia Group has announced a collaboration with AI Singapore (AISG) under its flagship 100 Experiments (100E) programme to develop an AI solution to transform the online search experience for Asian travellers. For a start, Expedia Group and AI Singapore project team will leverage NLP and ML to develop an AI-based model to enhance search query understanding and resolution in the Japanese language, before extending the model to other Asian languages to enhance online search efficiency. AISG’s 100E programme matches companies which are keen to use AI to address their problem statements with local researchers. AISG is driven by a government-wide partnership comprising NRF, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, the EDB, the IMDA, SGInnovate and the Integrated Health Information Systems.
SCMP featured an article on how Singapore has transformed itself into a regional tech hub. According to Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, the transformation of Singapore is thanks to “enabling conditions”, such as business-friendly policies, a coordinated approach between IHLs with private companies to provide a trained workforce, and a high quality of life to attract globally-mobile entrepreneurs and top-grade talent who can call anywhere home. Singapore has also shifted its focus from a knowledge-based economy in the early 2000s to a focus on deep tech. As part of Singapore’s move into deep tech, the government slated S$19 billion as investment capital to build the country into a global R&D hub, and in 2016 set up SGInnovate to nurture deep tech startups in the country. In March, an additional S$500 million was set aside to expand investments into AI, national supercomputing and robotics programmes, as well as cell therapy and food technology. Today, there is also a deep pool of private capital willing to back startups. Thanks to the government’s matching and co-financing schemes, early VC funds were attracted to Singapore, and that pool of capital is now well-placed to invest in the multibillion-dollar Southeast Asia market.