Technology

Vive La start-up: French firms increasingly setting up shop in Singapore

Ambassador Benjamin Dubertret says there are nearly 1,200 French companies with a presence in Singapore.
10-Vins’ Bertrand Tellier with the company’s wine dispenser and flacons of wine.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Left: 10-Vins' Bertrand Tellier with the company's wine dispenser and flacons of wine. Below: Moleac's David Picard with samples of the drug it developed to help stroke patients. Below left: Finalcad's Pierre Vauthrin showing the firm's app-based CAD
Moleac’s David Picard with samples of the drug it developed to help stroke patientsPHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Left: 10-Vins' Bertrand Tellier with the company's wine dispenser and flacons of wine. Below: Moleac's David Picard with samples of the drug it developed to help stroke patients. Below left: Finalcad's Pierre Vauthrin showing the firm's app-based CAD
Finalcad’s Pierre Vauthrin showing the firm’s app-based CAD software.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Ambassador Benjamin Dubertret says there are nearly 1,200 French companies with a presence in  Singapore.
Ambassador Benjamin Dubertret says there are nearly 1,200 French companies with a presence in Singapore.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Up-and-coming French companies increasingly drawn to Singapore as a springboard for their regional expansion

France - famous for its wine, cheese and rich cultural heritage - is also becoming a force to be reckoned with in the start-up space.

And more of these up-and-coming French firms are setting up shop in Singapore.

France's Ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret told The Straits Times there are nearly 1,200 French companies with a presence here, according to a survey this year by Business France, the agency supporting the international development of France's economy.

The number of French subsidiaries here has risen by almost 15 per cent since a similar survey in 2012, while the number of entrepreneurs has doubled, he added.

This comes as France ramps up efforts to develop its entrepreneurship ecosystem. The government has invested €200 million (S$302 million) in business accelerators and incubators under a programme called "La French Tech", aimed at supporting innovative companies.

Singapore was the top spot in Asean for French foreign investment last year, with a total stock of more than €10.7 billion. It is also France's largest trading partner in the region.

The Straits Times speaks to three French firms keen on Singapore as a base for regional expansion.

10-Vins

10-Vins has created a machine named D-Vine that serves aerated wine by the glass at the ideal temperature.

The company is keen to use Singapore as a gateway to expand in South-east Asia, where there is a growing middle class, said director Bertrand Tellier.

Its technology stores wines in 100ml tubes - equivalent to a glass of wine. To serve the wine, the tube is placed in a machine, which reads a microchip on the vial to determine proper decanting and temperature instructions specific to each type of wine. The wine is served in less than a minute.

The microchips also contain media content which users can access via a mobile app - like videos about the winemaker.

The device is the brainchild of three French engineers who founded 10-Vins in 2012. They took three years to develop the technology.

"Consumers in Singapore and the region are becoming more sophisticated and want to learn about wine," said Mr Tellier, who is responsible for growing its business in Asia. "We think there is a huge opportunity to introduce a new and fashionable way of drinking wine."

In addition to the consumer market, the company is also targeting corporate customers such as hotels, cruise lines and restaurants.

A D-Vine dispenser retails at $1,790, while each 100ml wine flacons retails from $9 to $39.

Moleac

This biopharmaceutical company was founded in Singapore in 2003 and has developed a post-stroke recovery treatment that combines traditional Chinese medicine with scientific research.

The capsule, called NeuroAiD, is in the running to become Singapore's first home-grown drug, said co-founder and chief executive David Picard.

Mr Picard, who previously spent 10 years at the Boston Consulting Group and founded Moleac with two others, said the idea was born in France and initially funded from Europe. "We saw the opportunity to build bridges between traditional Asian medicine and Western medicine, two fields which usually don't talk to each other at all."

The decision to locate the company in Singapore was based on the "understanding of both Eastern and Western medicine" here. "We also wanted to ensure our research and data could stand the scrutiny of clinicians internationally."

NeuroAiD, which came on the market in 2006, has undergone clinical trials in Singapore and regionally, showing it to be effective in boosting recovery of neurological functions after a stroke.

It is sold in more than 25 countries and could reach 20,000 patients this year.

Mr Picard said Moleac is working towards obtaining full-fledged drug approval in the United States and Europe. It has an office in Biopolis and about 30 staff.

Finalcad

Finalcad is a mobile app which allows architects, contractors and sub-contractors to collaborate on construction projects.

The platform aims to help building firms raise productivity and quality, said Mr Pierre Vauthrin, the managing director for Asia.

Finalcad lets workers on construction sites log defects, communicate with sub-contractors and keep track of potential recurring issues with its data analytics capabilities.

"The aim is to complete the project with zero defects - the dream of all contractors," said Mr Vauthrin.

The app, developed in France, was launched there in 2011 and secured its first project in 2013 - the Singapore Sports Hub.

The company opened its Singapore office this year - its first in Asia - and now has eight people on the team. It also has offices in Paris and London.

"Singapore will be our base for growing the business in the region," said Mr Vauthrin.

Finalcad is involved in 10,000 projects in 35 countries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'Vive La start-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe