Identifying emerging tech investment opportunities with corporates
Meet Kellie Chan. Kellie is Assistant Director of Corporate Engagement with SGInnovate’s Investments team. She joined SGInnovate even before it began and has been a part of the company’s mission to grow the Deep Tech ecosystem ever since.
Kellie is one of the company’s first employees, and has been with the organisation since even before the establishment of SGInnovate. She joined IIPL – the venture investment arm of the former Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) – as one of seven selected undergraduates for its venture capital management associate programme. Following the evolution of the organisation to SGInnovate, she continued to work with the team, and now leads Corporate Engagement, having moved over from the Venture Investing unit, both of which are under the Investments team.
Her current role as Assistant Director of Corporate Engagement sees her working closely with the corporates to understand and pinpoint areas of emerging tech that are of interest to companies, and where there is appetite for investment.
On the other hand, she also helps identify opportunities to bridge startups with corporates for collaboration in the form of pilots, as well as conduct landscape research.
“This is to help us to identify the whole landscape and understand the role we can play as an investor,” Kellie shared.
Recently, her team has also started to take on deal flow sourcing where they identify promising emerging tech startups across the globe to build SGInnovate’s investments pipeline.
“My day can encompass meetings with corporates to understand their focus areas, find out where the market is trending towards and identify opportunities. We also have conversations with research institutions and universities to find out about new research areas and the startups that are spinning out from these spaces,” explained Kellie.
You have been with SGInnovate even before its inception, and this is your first job too. What were the factors that made you stay on?
The flexible work culture is helpful, as it allows me to balance priorities across work and life.
It is also partly because of my boss, as cliché as it may sound. Hsien-Hui’s [executive director of Investments] working style suits me as there is a lot of autonomy. Even though I have learnt a lot from him in the last couple of years, there is more of his knowledge and experience I can tap on.
It has been quite a journey — coming in as a junior and now, leading a team.
What gets you excited about coming to work?
It is exciting when the corporate and startup do collaborate, because these partnerships are not easy to come by.
I am also constantly learning new things. Everything moves fast in the world of technology, and we must keep up to date on what is happening. With every conversation that we have — with a new corporate or existing partner, there is always something new to learn about an industry. There is never a boring day, and every conversation is a learning opportunity.
What is your favourite project from the past six years?
It would be investing in a startup called Horizon Quantum Computing. The company offers a universal software developer tool to program quantum applications, which allows programs written in a single unified language to be compiled and run on either conventional or quantum computers.
When they first came to us in 2018, it was just an idea. The quantum space was still pretty nascent and the path-to-market then was unclear, so a lot of investors shied away from the industry. But we believed in them and invested so it was exciting for me to watch the idea developed into a product and company.
The sector has also grown quite a fair bit since then and by journeying with Horizon, I got to keep track of the quantum space and understand it on a deeper level.
Have you always been interested in STEM topics and Deep Tech?
I have always liked coding and programming. During my polytechnic days, I did a Diploma in Financial Informatics, and coding and programming were my favourite classes. It is the satisfaction you get once you compile your code and achieve an output.
In university, I did a double degree in Information Systems & Finance. One of the classes I had was Technopreneurship [a focus on entrepreneurship in the field of technology] and that is how I got exposed to the startup world. We even had the chance to visit South Korea to learn more about the startup ecosystem there, which is pretty vibrant.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love nature. On the weekends, you’ll often find me at different hiking trails and spots in Singapore. I also like seeking out hiking or mountain trekking activities when I travel. Prior to COVID-19, I was planning trips to Nepal to do the Everest Base Camp trek, as well as to Tanzania, East Africa to do Mount Kilimanjaro. With travel resuming, I look forward to embarking on these activities again.
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