Bigger $50,000 grant for first-time entrepreneurs among more help for local start-ups

Mr Chan Chun Sing (second from right) and Mrs Josephine Teo (third from right) speaking to Mr James Chan (left), founder of Ion Mobility, on Aug 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - First-time entrepreneurs will be able to access a higher start-up capital grant of $50,000, up from $30,000, to help them launch their business ideas, part of enhanced measures to boost local start-ups, creating new companies and jobs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A three-month venture building programme has also been introduced to help start-ups get their innovative ideas off the ground, in enhancements to the Startup SG Founder programme announced on Thursday (Aug 20).

The details were shared by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo during a visit to The Greenhouse, Singapore Management University's Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The Startup SG Founder programme, which is overseen by government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG), was launched in 2017 and aims to provide mentorship and start-up capital grants to first-time entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

The enhancements will see the pre-seed grant support for each start-up over a 12-month period increased by $20,000 to $50,000, with the co-matching fund required by the start-up maintained at $10,000.

In a move to strengthen their Singaporean core, start-ups wishing to tap the grant must now be formed with a minimum of three Singaporeans and/or permanent residents (PRs), inclusive of founders, of which at least two of them must be first-time founders. This is up from the previous requirement of having at least one Singaporean or PR.

Said Mr Chan: "We are determined to grow a new generation of companies from Singapore to serve not just the Singapore market, but also the regional and global markets. Now, in every crisis, there are always opportunities for us to grow a new generation of companies. And this crisis is no different."

He noted that while these efforts started before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has accelerated many of the initiatives to help start-ups grow and penetrate new markets during this crisis.

Besides new innovations and solving real world problems, start-ups are also helping to create jobs, which is crucial in this difficult period, Mr Chan said, noting that this was a reason to enhance support for start-ups through the Startup SG Founder programme.

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Up to $150 million has already been set aside for the enhancements to the Startup SG Founder Programme, which was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his ministerial statement on Monday.

The new venture building programme will help participants in sourcing innovation, commercialising ideas into scalable businesses, getting product and solution validation from customers, and finding capital.

The programme is open to Singapore citizens and PRs, with each participant receiving a monthly stipend of $1,500 during its three-month duration.

Five autonomous universities - Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore University of Social Sciences - will provide the venture building programme, and will launch their call for applications by the end of August.

ESG will progressively expand the list of partners for the venture building programmes.

The Startup SG Founder programme currently has close to 50 accredited mentor partners in its network, in various deep tech industries including agri-tech and advanced manufacturing.

In 2019, 74 start-ups received structured mentoring from 43 mentor partners under the Startup SG Founder programme, and were awarded grants amounting to $2.22 million for their business development.

Earlier this year, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, announced that the Government will set aside an additional $300 million under the Startup SG Equity co-investment scheme to catalyse investment into deep tech start-ups here.

This allocation is expected to draw over $800 million of private funding over the next decade.

The scheme provides equity investments to tech start-ups with strong intellectual property and global potential, and supports them through financing, mentorship and physical spaces.

Mr Edwin Chow, ESG assistant chief executive for innovation and enterprise, said: "Our start-up ecosystem has contributed to Singapore's ongoing transformation to an innovation-driven economy. Start-ups have an innate ability to adapt and pivot, to quickly spot opportunities and provide effective solutions. This is especially important during crises."

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