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Different routes to the same startup

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One thing that attracted head of data Evgeni Makarov to Swat was the originality of the company's core idea. Unlike some startups, Swat was not getting on a bandwagon. "It's not a startup that's a kind of copycat," he says.

SWAT's data team includes engineers from research backgrounds and from big software companies; PhDs, working alongside an intern from the National University of Singapore; and citizens of Singapore, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, and Russia.

Not bad for a team that counts just six members, including head of data Evgeni Makarov.

This diversity is unsurprising in the context of Swat's overall culture, which Mr Makarov describes as being "very open to different views".

Originally from Russia, he had previously worked in various software companies and startups both here and abroad, in areas such as fintech.

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But data analytics has increasingly become a skill that is desired in sectors outside tech - including more "traditional" areas such as land transport.

After several years in Singapore, Mr Makarov joined Swat a year ago.

He knew the founders from before Swat was formed, having worked with them on a commercial software development project in logistics.

One thing that attracted him to Swat was the originality of its core idea, he says. Unlike some startups, Swat was not getting on a bandwagon: "It's not a startup that's a kind of copycat."

At the time, the idea of ride-sharing for buses was new - and required much more complicated calculations than ride-sharing for cars or taxis.

In Swat, he and his team draw on Geographic Information System (GIS) or mapping data, as well as data on public commuter rides and traffic.

The firm also has a system for tracking its own vehicles, which analyses costs such as Electronic Road Pricing. All this goes towards Swat's software for optimising the performance of bus fleets.

One aspect of this is minimising parameters such as the total distance covered, to achieve greater efficiency.

But finding a mathematically efficient solution is not enough. "You need to consider that passengers have other (transport) options," says Mr Makarov. A good solution must also suit passengers' preferences.

The second aspect of optimisation is therefore maintaining the quality of service, measured via variables such as waiting time.

Just as Swat has proven the place to be for engineers of various backgrounds, it hopes to provide solutions for a range of users too.

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council