The Business Times

Singapore-based startups raise S$11.2b in 9M 2021, more than double the whole of 2020

Claudia Chong
Published Wed, Nov 10, 2021 · 03:20 PM

SINGAPORE remained the top destination in South-east Asia for startup investments in the first 9 months of this year, generating more than half of the total deal quantum in the region.

Enterprise Singapore chairman Peter Ong said on Wednesday (Nov 10) that startups in Singapore raised S$11.2 billion during that period, more than double the S$5.5 billion raised in the whole of 2020.

This is a healthy sign of recovery, he said, and Enterprise Singapore will focus on strengthening international connections and the startup talent pool as the world gradually reopens.

Singapore saw a number of tech unicorns minted in 2021, including Ninja Van, PatSnap, Advance Intelligence Group and Nium. These companies have benefited from the fast-growing South-east Asian market, driven by a boom in Internet usage and a growing middle class.

About 50 million consumers are expected to join the ranks of the middle class in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam by next year, said Ong.

Internet penetration is higher than the global average, and the value of the region's digital economy is expected to grow from US$100 billion in 2020 to more than US$300 billion in 2025.

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Singapore's startup ecosystem has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, said Ong.

"The increased vibrancy (of Singapore's startup ecosystem) did not happen by chance, nor did it grow overnight," he said in his opening address at the finals of Slingshot, a regional startup competition.

Ong pointed out how startups in Singapore have access to over 200 global and local accelerators, up from about 120 just 5 years ago. The number of early-stage venture capital firms has also increased by about a third, from around 130 in 2016 to close to 180 today.

Still, startups face several challenges, including finding the right technical talent to grow their business.

"Talent can differentiate the great from the good. Singapore is small and I know that finding talent is oftentimes a challenge. But that should not inhibit what startups based here can achieve," said Ong.

He added that the flow of talent between countries will slowly resume with Singapore's vaccinated travel lanes in place, but "time is a priceless currency for startups".

"For those who need to strike while the iron is hot, we have the Global Tech Talent Alliance programme. Under this programme, startups will be able to tap service providers that can help them build and manage tech talent remotely and navigate local regulations to facilitate market expansion."

The programme has kicked off in Vietnam and will expand to more markets.

Enterprise Singapore also plans to strengthen its networks with partners in Asia and the rest of the world.

The agency's co-innovation programmes facilitated 78 bilateral innovation projects from 2019 to September this year. Partners came from cities in Europe, Israel and China.

Meanwhile, the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) helps overseas companies learn about doing business in Singapore, and assists Singapore-based companies in internationalisation.

Over 300 participants have spent, on average, 2 months each in these programmes since 2020. "These cross-border collaborations will help us build connections in 16 GIA cities around the world, including South-east Asia, China, India, Europe and the US," said Ong.

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