Industry mentors lend support to start-ups via sharing sessions, resource banks

Industry mentors and company representatives taking part in a virtual session organised by Tribe Accelerator to engage start-ups. PHOTO: TRIBE ACCELERATOR

Mentors in Singapore's start-up ecosystem have taken workshops online and set up resource banks to help entrepreneurs deal with challenges stemming from the pandemic.

German Accelerator, for one, has introduced a Covid-19 centre that helps start-ups prepare their go-to-market strategy for Asia or the United States remotely.

It taps a network of over 300 international mentors to advise entrepreneurs and connect them with customers, partners and investors.

In April, venture capital firm Antler put out a call for start-ups across the world tackling the virus outbreak to apply for funding.

It invited solution proposals in mitigation, medical equipment, remote health and digital tools. It drew around 1,500 applications from 100 countries, prompting the firm to invest about US$500,000 (S$681,900) in some of these ideas.

NUS Enterprise has moved initiatives such as its networking sessions online and has been holding weekly community meetings to share ideas and provide encouragement.

It has also been consolidating feedback and requests from start-ups and communicating these to government agencies that are developing support packages, said Professor Freddy Boey, deputy president of innovation and enterprise at the National University of Singapore.

Incubation service fees at its facilities have also been waived since April to help start-ups preserve cash, while NUS Enterprise has helped firms negotiate rent deferment and discounts, he added.

Mr Vishal Harnal, partner at 500 Startups, said it has been helping start-ups raise funds during this period, with part of its focus on those operating in sectors that are not directly affected by the pandemic. It has also contributed to #SupportStartups, a movement that collates promotions for both consumers and businesses.

Besides ground-up efforts, there has also been government-level assistance to boost the ecosystem.

In June, a special situation fund was launched to help promising start-ups maintain their growth momentum. The scheme involves the investment arms of the Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore investing in selected start-ups with private-sector co-investors through convertible notes.

A series of National Innovation Challenges has also been launched to provide co-innovation opportunities between the private and public sectors, and this includes start-ups.

This article has been edited for clarity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2020, with the headline Industry mentors lend support to start-ups via sharing sessions, resource banks. Subscribe