Singapore Press Holdings announces $2 million investment in data gathering start-up

SINGAPORE - Media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has notified the Singapore Exchange of its move to buy a 20 per cent stake in a local start-up that offers quick and convenient access to curated data about companies and the people who run or own them.

The firm, DC Frontiers, founded in 2011 by two Singaporeans, received a $2 million cash injection from SPH.

Its application, called Handshakes, is able to trawl through publicly available information on listed firms to draw links between people and companies.

In doing so, it provides quick access to information about companies and the people who run or own them. The information, based on listed company disclosures, is presented in interactive visual maps and reports that can be churned out in seconds.

"Once information has been released in a disclosure-based regime, the public is expected to know it. But no one has a perfect memory," said co-founder Daryl Neo.

In an SGX announcement Monday, SPH said the acquisition was not expected to have any material impact on its net tangible or earnings per share for the financial year ending Aug 31, this year.

Mr Neo, 30, who set up the company in April 2011 with Mr Charles Poon, 39, said the duo saw a need for a "knowledge management system" to integrate company information that has been publicly released.

The pair met as colleagues at the SGX where they were regulators of mainboard and Catalist-listed companies.

Mr Neo said: "Due diligence and gaining understanding about a counterparty are important steps in building trust between parties. Handshakes facilitates this by providing innovative solutions to the ever-increasing need for reliable information and faster turnaround time."

The app began "as a side project to solve our own frustrations as regulators", Mr Neo added. He noted that market analysts once had to read through hundreds of pages of disclosures to hunt for information about how people and companies are affiliated.

This could be a daunting task - for instance, there might be variations in the spelling of a person's name in different documents.

"Many firms resorted to armies of interns and associates for this frustrating task. This slowed down the completion of deals and gave limited assurance of quality."

Handshakes automates this process, which could take days or even weeks when done manually.

Co-founder Mr Poon said: "Our roots are in the capital markets, where we began by integrating public information from listed company disclosures.

"We now cover the Singapore and Malaysian markets and are expanding coverage to Hong Kong and countries in the region."

The cash injection from SPH will be used to move into new markets in Asia, as well as deepen coverage in existing locations, the pair said.

This includes widening the scope of the app to draw information from sources besides capital markets.

One possibility could be newspaper archives, said Mr Poon, who added that this was among the key reasons the firm decided to partner SPH.

The company was courted by other investors, but wanted a "strategic" partner that could provide it with access to more customers and resources.

"SPH is a media company, and that's an area that is very interesting to us beyond our existing capabilities in capital markets. Being a regional media company, it can also give us a leg up in penetrating new markets in Asia," added Mr Poon.

Mr Anthony Mallek, SPH's chief financial officer, said: "SPH is pleased to invest in Handshakes, which is an innovative young company that is serving a real need in the business community.

"We look forward to unlocking the synergies between the companies.

"We also like their ambition to grow and expand their services in the region."

chiaym@sph.com.sg