Facebook courting startups and SMEs

It will boost its support for these S-E Asian businesses through diverse initiatives, including digital literacy education and business training to help early-stage firms expand.

FACEBOOK is on a mission to get closer to its South-east Asian customers and help the region's startups and small businesses grow.

In September, the social networking company announced it will build a S$1.4 billion data centre in Singapore, its first such facility in Asia and its 15th in the world.

"Our data centres are highly-advanced facilities that help bring Facebook apps and services to people around the world every day," a company spokesman said.

To be located in Tanjong Kling in Jurong, the new centre will support hundreds of jobs and add to Facebook's growing presence in Singapore and the region.

It is targeted to start operations in 2022, after which construction will continue for a few years by virtue of its size.

When complete, the centre will be a 170,000 sq m, 11-storey building featuring a facade made out of a perforated lightweight material, which will facilitate air flow and provide glimpses of the mechanical equipment inside.

It will be 100 per cent powered by renewable energy and run on an annual power usage effectiveness of 1.19. This means that almost every watt going into the data centre will be used to run the computing equipment.

The Facebook spokesman said that deciding where to locate a facility like a data centre is an "incredibly complicated process" that involves balancing dozens of different criteria.

Singapore provides the company with many things it looks for in a site, including good infrastructure, a great regulatory and business climate, and a shovel-ready site.

The spokesman added: "This specific location offers excellent access to power, fibre, as well as good water and sewer infrastructure."

Singapore has a talented local workforce and support from government agencies including JTC and the Singapore Economic Development Board, noted Thomas Furlong, Facebook's vice-president of infrastructure data centres.


Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who graced Facebook's launch event of the data centre in September, said the company's presence in Singapore is important in helping the country connect to the rest of the world.

Facebook does that by transcending the "physical constraints of size and space", and rendering the country a part of the global data centre value chain, he said.

The project is also a milestone in that it "helps break new ground in land utilisation and energy consumption", said Mr Chan.

Facebook's data centre in Singapore is believed to be the first to incorporate the new StatePoint Liquid Cooling system, a technology that minimises water and power consumption and reduces by 20 per cent the amount of peak water used in climates like Singapore's.

Peak water refers to a state of affairs in which the planet's supply of fresh water is not replenished at the rate it is consumed.

In October, Facebook unveiled its new, expanded office in Singapore. Located at Marina One and occupying about 260,000 sq ft of space across four floors, it will house more than 1,000 employees from Facebook's Singapore and regional teams.

Dan Neary, vice-president for the Asia-Pacific at Facebook, said: "We are expanding to better serve businesses and communities in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific."

Facebook will boost its support for businesses through diverse initiatives, which include digital literacy education; business training to help early-stage firms expand; and specialised programmes such as #SheMeansBusiness, which seeks to inspire and empower women entrepreneurs.

The new office is home to its first partner centre in Asia, where partners can immerse themselves in Facebook's company mission, vision and culture - and explore new growth opportunities for their business.

At the new office launch, Facebook also rolled out Startup Station, Singapore, its first accelerator programme for South-east Asian startups.

It is open to growth-stage, data-driven startups with an established business model and data sets. The programme is created in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and is set to kick off in February 2019.

It will provide startups with mentorship by industry leaders; connections to investors; and access to the Regulatory Sandbox, which, facilitated by IMDA, allows startups to develop new ideas through the use of data in a live environment.

It will also offer startups complimentary coworking space in PIXEL, an IMDA-run innovation space in One-North.

Unlike conventional accelerators or incubators, Startup Station, Singapore will not invest in or take equity in the startups.

Startup Station, Singapore is Facebook's first data innovation startup programme in Asia - and second in the world after France, where it is known as Start-up Garage.

Alvin Tan, head of public policy for South-east Asia at Facebook, said: "South-east Asia is home to some of the most exciting startups in the world. We will be able to give startups the infrastructure and access they need to refine and scale their business models."

Facebook added that the programme will empower startups to accelerate their businesses in new and cutting-edge ways, while continuing to keep people's trust, transparency and control over their data.


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