A LaunchPad that gives start-ups flexibility to grow

Mr Anthony Chow, co-founder and chief executive of smart lock company igloohome, says having the flexibility to move between office spaces at LaunchPad has been a great benefit. Smart wearables firm KaHa has a 1,700 sq ft space in LaunchPad. Its head
E-commerce firm ShopBack now occupies an 8,000 sq ft space in LaunchPad @ one-north, having started out renting a small office the size of a meeting room in a different block within the estate.PHOTO: ROOOT STUDIO
Mr Anthony Chow, co-founder and chief executive of smart lock company igloohome, says having the flexibility to move between office spaces at LaunchPad has been a great benefit. Smart wearables firm KaHa has a 1,700 sq ft space in LaunchPad. Its head
Mr Anthony Chow, co-founder and chief executive of smart lock company igloohome, says having the flexibility to move between office spaces at LaunchPad has been a great benefit. PHOTO: IGLOOHOME
Mr Anthony Chow, co-founder and chief executive of smart lock company igloohome, says having the flexibility to move between office spaces at LaunchPad has been a great benefit. Smart wearables firm KaHa has a 1,700 sq ft space in LaunchPad. Its head
Smart wearables firm KaHa has a 1,700 sq ft space in LaunchPad. Its head of business development and operations says the rents at the estate are attractive and help the company manage its operation costs. PHOTO: KAHA

There are about 800 start-ups and 50 ecosystem players, including venture capital firms and incubators, housed in eight blocks across the 600,000 sq ft LaunchPad @ one-north.

Several start-ups said competitive rental rates in the estate are among its draws. The rates, which have not increased since 2015, are pegged to market conditions, said a spokesman for JTC, which manages the estate.

Here are three start-ups that have thrived with the growth of the hub.

SHOPBACK

E-commerce firm ShopBack, which rewards users with cashback for online and offline purchases, started out in Block 71 in 2014 with a small office the size of a meeting room.

Two years ago, it moved into Block 77, one of the newer additions to the estate, taking up an 8,000 sq ft office on the third floor.

The company, which has the Economic Development Board's investment arm EDBI and SoftBank Ventures Asia among its investors, has more than 140 employees here.

Co-founder Samantha Soh said: "From an early stage, it was inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who wanted to make things happen while hustling side by side with other start-ups that also wanted to make a 'ding' in the universe."

ShopBack learnt a lot from the neighbouring companies, and approached them for help in user-testing and feedback for its platform, she added.

The ecosystem helped the firm to form partnerships with other companies, some of which it continues to work with today. For example, it works with fellow start-ups NodeFlair and Holistics for hiring and business intelligence data solutions, respectively.

IGLOOHOME

The smart lock company started out with four seats within NUS Enterprise's premises at Block 71 in 2015.

 

In just four years, igloohome has moved into two different blocks in LaunchPad and is in the midst of renovating its new 7,500 sq ft office space, which is in the same block it is currently housed in.

Its headcount has doubled since last year - the company has about 100 employees, half of them in Singapore, and the rest across its 13 offices globally.

Having the flexibility to move between office spaces at LaunchPad has been a great benefit for a constantly growing start-up like igloohome, "instead of being kicked out and having to find a bigger space on our own", said co-founder and chief executive Anthony Chow.

The firm's brand manager Cherry Lim added that the start-up-focused space at LaunchPad means that there are always events that are relevant to the company, such as career fairs, and plenty of networking opportunities with other start-ups in the area.

"We're also located near the universities, which makes it ideal for hiring interns," Ms Lim said.

KAHA

Smart wearables company KaHa has capitalised on the benefits of being in close proximity to key technology innovation and research agencies, conceptualising innovative solutions out of its Singapore headquarters in one-north.

The company, which started out in a 430 sq ft unit in May 2017 and now operates out of a 1,700 sq ft space, developed a smart T-shirt in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and home-grown textile company Tex Line last year.

The T-shirt tracks physical activity information, takes electrocardiogram readings of its wearer and can also detect cardiac abnormalities.

Ms Sim Seo Lay, head of business development and operations at KaHa, said the rents at LaunchPad, which are fixed for the tenancy period of three years, are attractive and help the company manage its operation costs.

Many ideas have been conceived and brought to life in the estate, she added.

"The (area) promotes a culture of innovation, and... you can see the many innovative ideas and solutions trialled and tested (here)," Ms Sim said, citing pay-per-use mobile gyms, autonomous vehicles and smart drones among the ideas that have been test-bedded in LaunchPad.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2019, with the headline 'A LaunchPad that gives start-ups flexibility to grow'. Print Edition | Subscribe