Facebook co-founder lauds S'pore approach on start-ups

Mr Eduardo Saverin, speaking at the launch of online property search portal 99.co, said Singapore has a growing pool of experienced entrepreneurs. The Facebook co-founder has also invested in e-grocer Redmart.
Mr Eduardo Saverin, speaking at the launch of online property search portal 99.co, said Singapore has a growing pool of experienced entrepreneurs. The Facebook co-founder has also invested in e-grocer Redmart.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has backed Singapore's approach to start-up development, pointing to the way the country's top schools turn out smart people who can invent new products and services.

In a recent interview, Mr Saverin said: "More top-tier venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital, which funded companies like Apple and Facebook, have offices here.

"They bring the smart money, that is the connections to expertise, customers and markets. They help grow start-ups.

"There is also a growing pool of experienced entrepreneurs. They have built start-ups, they know what it takes and they know how to jump through the hoops when they face challenges."

Mr Saverin, who spoke at the recent launch of online property search portal 99.co, said that these elements are more significant to him as they ensure that new ideas can be implemented well.

"Fresh business ideas can only bring you so far. You need to have good execution and this requires people, experience and smart money," he told The Straits Times.

The portal 99.co raised funding from Mr Saverin and United States firm Sequoia Capital, but the amount of the investments was not disclosed.

Mr Saverin said 99.co co-founder Darius Cheung is an experienced entrepreneur who founded mobile security software TenCube, which was acquired by US firm McAfee in 2010.

"He has also got the smart money and knowledge capital from Sequoia, which will be providing him with advice and expertise," he added.

Mr Saverin, who lives in Singapore, has also invested in local e-grocer Redmart.

He said he looks at the "bigger picture of how to make the world a better place" before deciding on where to invest.

"I've always put the consumer in the centre, identify the big problems they face, then see how technology can be used to solve those problems."

He believes 99.co can help people find the best home possible.

In Redmart, it is about giving busy people the convenience of buying groceries online.

Mr Saverin added that he hoped 99.co would provide more than just a list of properties for people to buy or rent.

"In a way, it is also a big-data issue. How do I find out more about the property I'm interested in? Have residents in that condo or around the area put up photos? Have my friends lived there before? What do people say about living there?

"All this information can be collected and put it into a funnel and distilled in a way which gives people a better sense, not only of the property, but the neighbouring environment as well."

He was convinced to invest in 99.co because of its focus on the consumer and the passion Mr Cheung and his team demonstrated.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg