Start Singapore

Six things you should know about the start-up scene here.

Q Who is venture capital (VC) royalty in Singapore?

A Monk's Hill Ventures, led by seasoned entrepreneurs and corporate executives Ong Peng Tsin and Lim Kuo-Yi, is the cream of the VC crop. It manages an US$80 million (S$112 million) fund to invest in start-ups.

They are the "smart money", men with good connections to the who's who in start-up centres such as Silicon Valley, London and Tel Aviv. They can open doors for start-ups in new markets, getting customers, hiring and further fund raising.

Internet millionaire Mr Ong is a successful start-up entrepreneur, having built and sold three companies - Match.com, Interwoven and Encentuate - for tens of millions of dollars. He has served as a director with A-list corporations, such as Singtel and Chinese video-based social network YY.com.

Mr Lim previously led Infocomm Investments, the venture arm of the Infocomm Development Authority, managing a $200 million fund to invest in tech start-ups. He also worked at Encentuate.

Q Who's the most popular conference speaker?

A Mr Vinnie Lauria, co-founder of Singapore VC Golden Gate Ventures, pops up as a speaker at all key start-up conferences and meetings here, like TechVenture, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network and eTail Asia.

Speaking helps maximise his time and exposure to start-ups, he said. He tries to limit speaking to either start-up or investor related conferences.

Married with one child, he said about time management: "I'm still learning as I type this response one hand while walking the dog... And just put our little Rocco to sleep by sleeping next to him while chatting away on chat service Slack to a portfolio CEO."

Q How many unicorns are there in Singapore?

A A start-up unicorn is not a mythical animal. It is a start-up whose valuation has soared beyond US$1 billion.

There are four in Singapore, tagged by business magazine Fortune and other media outlets: e-commerce firm Lazada; games peripherals firm Razer, taxi app GrabTaxi and online game platform Garena .

The unicorns are valued based on, among other factors, future potential earnings.

Be forewarned: Ninety-nine per cent of start-ups fail. Unicorns are mythical until they can serve up the revenues.

Q What country is most important to a start-up?

A Indonesia. Singapore may be the start-up hub for South-east Asia, and important to pilot new products and services but its customer base is small.

Indonesia has 250 million people, making it a vast market for consumer products. It also boasts the biggest smartphone market in South-east Asia. Mobile-centric start-ups - and all consumer Internet services - should target our neighbour.

Start-ups looking to raise funds should have Indonesia in their business plan or face no funding prospects.

Q How many start-ups are there in Singapore?

A Hold on to your chairs: There were 55,000 start-ups in Singapore last year, up from only 24,000 in 2005. Spring Singapore said the number of high-tech sectors rose by 85 per cent over the same period.

Q How many start-up events are there here?

A A start-up event a day is held here, including entrepreneur- sharing forums, investment- pitching sessions, networking drinks and hackathons. Any new investor or entrepreneur in town needs only to attend these get-togethers to get plugged into the local community.

Grace Chng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'StartSingapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe