SPH to help digital media start-ups develop technology

SINGAPORE - Singapore Press Holdings will help develop digital media start-ups that can help the company monetise its rich content library.

It will pick 20 new firms from South-east Asia for a three-month corporate accelerator programme that will involve assistance in product development and commercialisation.

SPH has teamed up with Infocomm Investments (IIPL), the venture arm of the Infocomm Development Authority, and United States-based tech accelerator Plug and Play to develop the programme. Investment details of the collaboration were not released.

SPH will fund the initiative from the $100 million SPH Media Fund. The fund’s chief executive, Mr Chua Boon Ping, told The Straits Times yesterday: “A corporate accelerator benefits us in a few ways.

“It acts as market-sensing, for us to know what innovations are out there and how ideas can be quickly replicated. Even if we take the new ideas in-house, we’ll never be able to develop them as fast as a start-up.”

He added that SPH aims to tap into new innovative ways to monetise content and resources. “By working with the start-ups, we also get the first look at new developments. If we like one or two of them, we’ll have first dibs on them.

“While developing their products and services, the start-ups will have tested their technologies with our systems, like our advertising platform. In future, when the start-up is fully developed, its product will work on our system, which benefits us.”

A new product could help get digital content to new audiences or involve ways to generate more revenue from advertisers. Mr Chua said SPH has identified e-commerce, advertisement technology, content portals and adjacent markets as promising sectors.

The collaboration will also involve SPH providing mentors to offer expertise in areas like advertising, classifieds and content distribution. The accelerator will kick off the first programme with 10 start-ups in June, with the second one planned for next year. They will be based at Bash, IIPL’s new office in Block 79 at Launchpad@one-north, the country’s start-up enclave in Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate. SPH is among the first companies here to start a corporate accelerator. 

IIPL chief executive Alex Lin said corporate accelerators are key to helping start-ups find customers. “SPH’s advantage is that it has readers and advertisers, and expertise in circulation and distribution, marketing and other areas. This expertise is critical for start-ups to grow bigger,” he added.

Mr Lin said an IIPL survey of companies founded in the past five years found that “61 per cent don’t last more than three years because they can’t find the customers to sell their products”. “Start-ups have ideas but don’t know where to find a product fit. We hope that corporate accelerators can help solve this challenge.”

The collaboration will see $30,000 invested in each start-up company selected to participate in the accelerator programme.

Plug and Play co-founder and chief executive Saeed Amidi said it has been running a successful corporate accelerator programme with German publisher Axel Springer for the past two years. California-based Mr Saeed told The Straits Times in a telephone interview recently: “We had great results with Axel Springer. Out of 48 companies, 40 have received extra funding from €500,000 (S$725,300) to €1 million. We know that the same will happen in Singapore.”

Plug and Play has been in business for 30 years, helping entrepreneurs develop their firms.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg