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DBS matches bank and its customers with startups to solve business pain points

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Since the launch of Jim, Southeast Asia’s first virtual recruiter in April this year, CEO and co-founder of impress.ai Sudhanshu Ahuja (second from the left) and his team have raised USD 1.2 million in funding from investors. They have also increased their monthly revenue by five-fold. Sud is pictured here with the DBS Innovation Group team.

DBS Bank on Tuesday launched Startup Xchange, a programme matching the bank and its enterprise clients with startups and their new technologies so as to find solutions to business problems.

The programme is focused on four areas of "frontier technology" that will help businesses stay relevant in the long run, said DBS. They are artificial intelligence (AI), data science, immersive media and the Internet of Things.

Unlike a startup accelerator, Startup Xchange will not invest in or run an intensive three-month programme to groom startups. Instead, the programme brings in startups to co-create solutions with DBS and the bank's corporate and small and medium enterprise (SME) clients to solve business pain points.

Since its pilot launch several months ago, Startup Xchange has matched 21 startups with DBS and its clients, resulting in the successful rollout of 10 emerging technology solutions to-date, said DBS. Another ten solutions are expected to be launched over the next 12 months.

Startup Xchange also allows startups to showcase the solutions they developed for DBS, and to name the bank as an anchor client when raising capital with the investor community, DBS said.

For instance, Singapore-based AI startup impress.ai has partnered DBS’ human resources team to create JIM, a virtual bank recruiter. Following the partnership, impress.ai has raised US$1.2 million and seen a five-fold increase in monthly revenues, said DBS.

To boot, the startup is now working with 15 large enterprise customers, including AXA, NTUC Income and Singtel.

Bidyut Dumra, head of DBS’ innovation group, said Startup Xchange is a win-win for both the bank and the startup community.

“Startups sometimes have the brightest minds to develop the most cutting-edge technology solutions but they lack an anchor client and continuous funding. Startup Xchange is great as it helps the ecosystem of startups, DBS and its customers to commercialise emerging technology solutions to quickly achieve shared business goals.”

To start with, DBS has launched the Startup Xchange programme in its two largest markets, Singapore and Hong Kong. DBS said the programme is part of a five-year S$10 million investment made by the bank in 2015 to support the development of startups.

DBS said its research found that 78 per cent of accelerators launched in Singapore over the past three years are now defunct as many startups had failed without the continued support from established sponsors and partners.