Joint initiative to groom polytechnic entrepreneurs

Ms Britta Hummel and Ms Lee Ling Chong of 3PlayGrounds, a start-up at Pollinate that organises adventure tours and allows outdoor enthusiasts to find fellow travellers. Pollinate, which started operations in July, is targeted at start-ups that have p
Ms Britta Hummel and Ms Lee Ling Chong of 3PlayGrounds, a start-up at Pollinate that organises adventure tours and allows outdoor enthusiasts to find fellow travellers. Pollinate, which started operations in July, is targeted at start-ups that have passed the early set-up stage.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A new incubator in town wants to groom polytechnic entrepreneurs and help their ideas take flight.

Pollinate, a joint initiative across three polytechnics - Ngee Ann, Singapore and Temasek - is the first of its kind that supports entrepreneurship efforts by polytechnic alumni.

The incubator, which started operations in July, is targeted at start-ups that have passed the early set-up stage, said Mr Patrice Choong, director of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's innovation and entrepreneurship office.

"You start with an idea or a concept within the individual polytechnic's incubators. Once your idea matures and you are at the growth stage, you move on to Pollinate."

Growth-stage companies are those looking to expand and grow their profits.

There are 14 start-ups at Pollinate, which occupies 728 sq m at start-up cluster JTC Launchpad @ one-north in Ayer Rajah. There are plans to grow the number to 30 in three years.

Most of the start-ups are developing tech solutions in areas such as food and beverage, human resources and game development.

Pollinate has about $1 million in funds from the National Research Foundation, and the three polytechnics will put in a total of $180,000 each year, starting this year.

GO GLOBAL EARLY

Any Singapore start-up needs to be regional or international very early on. The market here is too small.

MR PATRICE CHOONG, director of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's innovation and entrepreneurship office, on why Pollinate will have exchange programmes with overseas partners.

The money goes towards the running of networking sessions, workshops and rental space, among other things.

Besides having a working space, the start-ups can make use of shared services such as digital marketing and analytics, as well as tap the polytechnics' overseas networks and a pipeline of young talent.

From next year, the incubator will place fresh polytechnic graduates who are keen to work with start-ups. They will be paid full salaries and receive training from mentors.

It has plans to partner the local universities, which have incubators at JTC Launchpad. "For instance, instead of running our own accelerator programme, we could send our start-ups to the ones run by NUS (National University of Singapore) or NTU (Nanyang Technological University). The ecosystem is quite open," said Mr Choong.

Pollinate will also have exchange programmes with overseas partners. "Any Singapore start-up needs to be regional or international very early on. The market here is too small," said Mr Choong.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic alumna Lee Ling Chong, 45, one of the three co-founders of an adventure travel start-up located at Pollinate, said: "Singapore is our test bed. We hope to scale up internationally next year to places like China and Hong Kong."

Her start-up, 3PlayGrounds, is an online site that organises adventure tours and allows outdoor enthusiasts to find fellow travellers. It has arranged more than 200 local and overseas trips to countries such as Peru and Canada.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'Joint initiative to groom polytechnic entrepreneurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe