Source: Strait Times

Singapore: A start-up boot camp by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has bolstered the local entrepreneurial scene, going by the response from investors and venture capital firms

The media company has developed 16 media, advertising and e-commerce innovations through the SPH Plug and Play (PnP) boot camp over the past 18 months.

The start-ups that developed the innovations will collectively raise over $6 million in follow-on funding, an indicator that the new businesses have potential.

The second batch of eight start- ups graduated last Friday and they are on target to raise about $3 million from angel investors and venture capitalists, said Mr Rudy Lim, who manages the SPH PnP boot camp, or accelerator in industry jargon. The first batch of eight start-ups that “graduated” last year raised over $3.6 million, including pocket tutor Snapask, which raised more than $2.5 million.

“The media landscape is in the midst of unprecedented rapid change. SPH needs to work with start-ups which have new ideas on how people are consuming media and using digital technologies. Some of these ideas may be useful to us too,” said Mr Lim.

With its assets and experience, SPH can then support and accelerate their offerings in the market, he added.

Started last year, the SPH PnP programme is a joint venture between SPH, global accelerator Plug and Play from Silicon Valley, and Infocomm Investments (IIPL), the venture arm of the Infocomm Development Authority.

Participating start-ups receive $30,000 and go through a 12-week course where they receive guidance from experienced mentors and business leaders.

IIPL chief executive Alex Lin said the programme shows that SPH has the internal capabilities to develop good start-ups, and that it is part of a shift in the start-up ecosystem where the industry will play a greater role in developing start-ups.

“This trend is a strong encouragement for SPH PnP and ourselves to continue energising the Singapore economy through building more innovative start-ups together,” said Dr Lin.

Mr Jupe Tan of Plug and Play said SPH plays an important role as it allows start-ups to learn from its experience and business.

“Investors provide funding but start-ups also need a place to pilot their products and technologies. Large corporations like telcos, banks and retailers should work with start-ups. Both will learn from this experience,” said Mr Tan, who oversees international operations.

Working with large corporations also give the start-ups a chance to sell their new products and services to the corporations, he said, adding that his firm is interested in working with SPH to extend the accelerator concept to other industries and regional countries.

The people behind the start-ups agree that the SPH accelerator has helped refine their ideas and business models.

Co-founder Ivan Chang of software start-up Wondertech said he entered the programme with one idea and finished it with another.

“We had a technology that trawled the Web to pick up information based on names, places and organisations. Our mentors told us this idea would not bring in any revenue,” he said.

The start-up changed its business strategy and used its expertise in natural language processing to develop a small programme that could be embedded in media websites to establish how long readers stayed on the sites. In its pilot trials, Wondertech discovered that the longer a reader stays, the higher the advertising revenue earned.

“SPH helped us learn the media business. We had discussions with its staff and it arranged for meetings with business mentors. This let us learn what we needed to succeed,” said Mr Chang.

Mr Jeremy Lim of private tutor Snapask said that the SPH PnP accelerator provided a good network into schools so that it could understand what students needed from tuition.

Snapask was from the first batch of the accelerator programme last year. “Even though the programme has ended for us, the team at SPH is still actively seeking out business collaboration opportunities for us.”

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