Deal Street Asia published an article based on an email interview with SGInnovate’s Head of Venture Investing, Hsien-Hui Tong, where he shared that foreign investors are getting more interested in Singapore’s deep tech startups specialising in AI, cleantech and quantum tech. While Singapore’s deep tech ecosystem is still at a nascent stage, the country has many aspects going in its favour, such as strong research institutes, IP protection and multiple global MNCs headquartered in Singapore. Mr Tong shared that what Singapore could have done better in investing in deep tech might have been to emphasise the translation of the research into not just IP to be leveraged by global MNCs and our GLCs, but also into startups who would further develop the IP into commercialisable businesses that could tackle difficult global challenges. While Singapore’s market is not as big or deep as the US or China, he noted that deep tech is a global, not local play. Given the small local market in Singapore, startups are immediately forced to think regional and global from day one. Of local founders, Mr Tong shared that one critique he would have of them would be their low perceived threshold of success.
The Business Times published an article from a deep tech investing panel based on the launch of the SGInnovate Insights paper ‘Deep Tech Investments: Realising the Potential’. Moderated by Kenneth Lim, deputy news editor of The Business Times, the panel featured deep tech entrepreneurs Dr Sinuhe Arroyo, chief executive of AI startup TAIGER; Dr Tan Geok Leng, chief executive of startup AIDA Technologies and David Toh, deputy director of venture building at SGInnovate. Mr Toh highlighted that family offices are increasingly warming up to the idea of investing in deep tech, because they have acknowledged that technology will disrupt the current industries. A pertinent challenge for the ecosystem is in attracting young talents that have both deep technical expertise as well as business acumen. Noting that it could be difficult to convert a scientist into an entrepreneur, Dr Tan suggested that it could be easier to match a scientist CTO with an entrepreneur CEO. Dr Arroyo also observed that the younger generation has the tendency to look for jobs that give them a sense of purpose, what impact they could have on the company and who they work alongside. Startups will need to give these talents “something meaningful” to work towards, instead of just a “badge of honour” they gain by landing prestigious roles in Facebook or Google.
The Business Times featured an article based on an interview with Tong Hsien-Hui, Head of Venture Investing at SGInnovate, on the challenges that Deep Tech startups face beyond the early stage. According to Hsien-Hui, early funding stages tend to be well-taken care of because of the government’s strong push to commercialise more Deep Tech companies, but challenges arise from the Series B stage onwards when the needs of the business are beyond what can be funded by its founders and early-stage investors. A Deep Tech investments white paper published by SGInnovate found that investors remain cautious about the Deep Tech sector despite the compelling proposition of defensible technologies paired with smart business models. More work needs to be done to educate limited partners on the potential of returns in the sector. As Singapore’s startup ecosystem matures, it is important that Deep Tech funding comes from local investors as well. Hsien-Hui added that while foreign investment is welcome, investors might bring the company to where the returns are best and be agnostic to national interest.
The Edge Singapore published an article on the talent gap in the deep tech landscape in Singapore. Since announcing its Smart Nation ambition in 2014, Singapore has launched national AI programme ‘AI Singapore’, along with government-owned agency, SGInnovate, which was tasked to invest in deep tech startups and build up Singapore’s tech ecosystem. MNCs and startups shared that local deep tech talents are hard to come by, especially those in experienced roles.
e27 published a list of the 9 most notable seed funding rounds in August 2019. Logistics and supply chain continued to be a popular theme in 2019 with investments into startups such as AllSome and Logisly. The F&B industry also remained popular with investments into AI Palette, Abillionveg, and Hungry Hub. Ai Palette received US$1 million in seed funding from investors Decacorn Capital, SGInnovate, AgFunder, Entrepreneur First along with other individual investors.
Xinhua Net published an interview with Steve Leonard, founding CEO of SGInnovate, where he shared that AI would be able to solve some of the big problems the world has. According to him, AI should be viewed as a set of tools which are both inevitable and important. Steve pointed out that while there’s a lot of technology focussed on consumer convenience, he believed that we need to be utilising tools such as AI to deal with hard problems and life or death problems. To that end, SGInnovate has invested in one Australian deep tech company, See-Mode, which uses computer vision and AI tools to run a series of models that gives us new insights and helps us know more accurately the people we have to keep a special eye on or to provide a different level of care for. Steve added that Australia is moving forward and has the opportunity to be a significant leader in AI technology.