Three win Emerging Enterprise awards

(From left) Mr Oliver Tan of ViSenze, Dr Charles Johnson of Hope First Response, Mr Ven Chin of GD Group and Ms Cecilia Chow of Zweec Analytics, with their trophies on Wednesday night. Zweec Analytics also bagged the Best Innovation Award and ViSenze
(From left) Mr Oliver Tan of ViSenze, Dr Charles Johnson of Hope First Response, Mr Ven Chin of GD Group and Ms Cecilia Chow of Zweec Analytics, with their trophies on Wednesday night. Zweec Analytics also bagged the Best Innovation Award and ViSenze won the award for Most Promising Start-up.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Top honours for video analytics firm, ambulance operator and restaurant chain

A video analytics firm, an ambulance operator, a restaurant chain and an image search engine have swept the trophies at this year's Emerging Enterprise (EE) awards.

Zweec Analytics, Hope First Response, the GD Group of restaurants and search engine ViSenze were among 14 finalists in the awards, jointly organised by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, honouring smaller firms.

The gala dinner on Wednesday night at the Shangri-La Hotel was that much sweeter for the team from Zweec Analytics, named one of the three top winners for the EE award, on top of bagging the Best Innovation Award.

Zweec specialises in video and data analytics, and applies that technology to water quality monitoring and surveillance. Turning their technology into a market product was a "gruelling process", said co-founder Cecilia Chow, but they were determined to do it.

"I really want to see our technology being applied in people's lives," said Ms Chow, who is a trained engineer.

Zweec began as a project with research agency A*Star in 2011, then grew into a business of its own. The team is now rolling out decentralised drinking water stations in developing countries.

On Zweec's recipe for success, chief executive Liaw Kok Eng said: "An innovative technology, an innovative commercialisation plan and an innovative business proposition to make the business sustainable - these are the three things that we really worked hard on."

Private ambulance operator Hope First Response also clinched the EE award. The firm, started in 2009 by two critical care nurses and an emergency physician, provides emergency services for events such as last weekend's Formula One night race.

"We partner with the hospitals - they provide the doctors and the nurses, we provide the paramedics and the ambulances," said its co-founder, Dr Charles Johnson.

"We feel that there's room for private enterprise to say, let's improve the standards of healthcare."

The third winner of the EE award was GD Group, founded five years ago by two former colleagues at Polar Puffs & Cakes who now serve up Penang hawker fare from seven outlets islandwide.

Co-founders Ricky Shawn Lim and Ven Chin pride themselves on their analytics-driven kitchen process. "We use a lot of technology to improve the efficiency of our staff. We are scientific people, it comes from him," said Mr Lim, referring to Mr Chin, a former actuary.

The award for Most Promising Start-up went to image search engine ViSenze.

"It started with a very simple idea - the Web has gone visual, yet people are still searching for images using keywords, guessing keywords and not finding. So, why don't we use images to help people find other images?" said chief executive Oliver Tan. He demonstrated to Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan at the dinner how the app worked on his phone.

In a speech, Mr Lee thanked the gathering of entrepreneurs for their "passion for learning" and "to think breakthroughs", which he said determined the success of their business models and hence Singapore's economy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Three win Emerging Enterprise awards'. Print Edition | Subscribe