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Corporate intelligence services startup eyes expansion in Asia

DC Frontiers expects to ride on the growing ease of creating companies, and increasing cross-border trade

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Mr Neo (above) and Mr Poon were both Singapore Exchange regulators before deciding to set up DC Frontiers. Using an algorithm, DC Frontiers' Handshakes portal is able to find paths of commercial interests between multiple companies and people, which helps identify conflicts of interests within seconds.

Hong Kong

SINGAPORE startup DC Frontiers is looking to expand in Asia amid a growing ease of creating companies and increasing cross-border trade that are expected to drive the need for corporate intelligence services such as those provided by its Handshakes portal.

DC Frontiers began with coverage of Singapore markets after its inception in 2011, and has since expanded its artificial intelligence-powered database to include listed companies in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Using an algorithm, Handshakes is able to find paths of commercial interests between multiple companies and people, which helps in identifying conflicts of interests within seconds, instead of trawling through hundreds of records that can be both costly and time-consuming.

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It has proven useful to internal audit and procurement audit users in identifying conflicts of interests and tender collusion.

"In the next few years, our coverage will extend to more parts of Asean and Asia," DC Frontiers co-founder Daryl Neo told The Business Times.

"I feel two major trends will drive and increase the need for our services. First is the increasing ease of creating companies, which leads to more group structures and intermediate holding vehicles. Handshakes excels in such cases because we specialise in the analysis of networks of companies.

"Second is increasing cross-border trade, which increases the need for collective intelligence of companies across the region."

Mr Neo and fellow co-founder Charles Poon were both Singapore Exchange regulators before deciding to set up DC Frontiers.

Their company has come a long way since its beginnings in a spare room in Mr Neo's home with a team of interns, driven by a vision "to enable collective intelligence through technology".

"We now have headcount across Asia, and our Singapore HQ (headquarters) is bursting at its seams with 25 people, so we are in the midst of moving into a larger space next month," said Mr Neo.

DC Frontiers has also picked up several awards along the way, including coming in first runner-up in the National Infocomm Awards in November.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes The Business Times, invested S$2 million for a 20 per cent stake in DC Frontiers in March 2015.

Mr Neo declined to share details about DC Frontiers' revenue and profitability, but said that Handshakes has over 200 user accounts, most of which are corporate accounts.

Fees for services range from S$50 pay-per-use accounts to larger $70,000 corporate accounts.

While Mr Neo remained coy about which countries DC Frontiers will be venturing into next, he let on that the plan is to keep moving "northward", adding that Hong Kong has been a crucial addition with the city's status as a financial hub and gateway to the mainland.

"Awareness about our product in Hong Kong is increasing, so we are moving ahead with plans to expand more aggressively there," he said.

"Our aspiration is to serve the whole of Asia, hence the northward expansion."

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