S'pore landing pad to help Aussie tech start-ups expand

ParentPaperwork chief executive Fiona Boyd, who founded the company with chief technology officer David Eedle, says Singapore would be a good base for the Australian company.
ParentPaperwork chief executive Fiona Boyd, who founded the company with chief technology officer David Eedle, says Singapore would be a good base for the Australian company.PHOTO: PARENTPAPERWORK

Start-ups from Australia keen on spreading their wings in the region will soon have a home in Singapore.

A "landing pad" will be set up in the coming months to help high-tech start-ups from Down Under expand here as part of efforts to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries.

The initiative was announced last month as part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a wide- ranging agreement between Singapore and Australia.

Singapore is one of five landing pads that the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is establishing worldwide as part of a A$11 million (S$11.04 million) government initiative. The others are in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Shanghai and Berlin.

The landing pad here will give Australian firms a base from which to access entrepreneurial talent, mentors, investors and strategic partnership opportunities, said Mr Christopher Rees, Australia's senior trade commissioner to Singapore.

"We will set up a presence in an established accelerator and provide a workspace and a tailored programme... for each start-up," he said.

Singapore's Economic Development Board and enterprise development agency Spring Singapore said they welcomed the move and will be facilitating Austrade's efforts.

Mr Guy Scott, president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce Singapore, said the Republic is "a fantastic place" for Australian firms keen on the broader South-east Asian region.

"There are opportunities across the board for Australian companies... Emerging industries taking advantage of new developments in mobile technology and high-tech innovation are definitely areas of potential growth," he added.

Some Australian firms have had their eye on opportunities in Singapore for a while.

Ms Gemma Manning, founder of Sydney-based Gemstar Technology, started the company three years ago to help Australian firms break into the Singapore market.

"Singapore has been coming on the radar for some Australian companies only recently," she said.

"If they wanted to go overseas, they would typically look to Silicon Valley, but we have been educating them that Singapore is going to be the next Silicon Valley."

She added that the focus on innovation and the vibrant start-up ecosystem here hold significant potential for Australian firms.

"In terms of companies actually taking the leap, there still isn't much traction. We're trying to get the message out there to the Australian business community, especially tech start-ups," she noted.

Gemstar has organised two trade missions here so far, and plans to run a third one this September.

It has brought 11 Australian companies to Singapore on these missions, which started last year. Of these, seven companies have started exploring opportunities here.

One of Gemstar's clients is ParentPaperwork, which helps schools automate paper forms by providing data capture, management and reporting services.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Fiona Boyd said the company's service is being tested at some Singapore schools.

The firm has yet to open an office here but will look into it "as soon as we have a cluster of customers".

It is already working with 220 schools around the world, mostly in Australia but also in Britain, the United States, Canada, Portugal and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Ms Boyd, who founded the company with chief technology officer David Eedle, said: "The reason we'd like to move to Singapore is that we're keen to bring our solutions to South Asia and South-east Asia and Singapore is a good base for a local home for us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore landing pad to help Aussie tech start-ups expand'. Print Edition | Subscribe