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.
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.
Singapore Business Review reported that Reefknot Investments, a Singapore-based joint venture between Temasek, and the transport and logistics company Kuehne + Nagel, plans to invest $69.15m on supply chain and logistics tech startups globally. The firm is looking to support the growth of series A and series B stage startups in particular by providing market and resource access and guidance. Apart from Temasek and Kuehne + Nagel, Reefknot is also working with global Asian-based investors EDBI, SGInnovate, Atlantic Bridge, Vertex Ventures, PSA unBoXed, Unilever Foundry and NUS Enterprise.
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.
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 Online reported that Reefknot Investments, a joint venture between Temasek Holdings and Kuehne + Nagel, has launched its inaugural US$50 million global fund to invest in startups "at the forefront" of the logistics and supply chain industry. Its first fund will back six to eight startups in verticals such as AI, digital logistics and trade finance. Investee companies will gain business insights from Temasek, as well as the expertise of Kuehne + Nagel, a transport and logistics giant headquartered in Switzerland. Reefknot's venture ecosystem partners include EDBI, SGInnovate, Atlantic Bridge, Vertex Ventures, PSA unBoXed, Unilever Foundry and NUS Enterprise.