ESG programmes to groom new start-ups have supported over 300 participants in 6 months

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing with the winners of the Founder IGNITE, a series of pitch events organised by Enterprise Singapore. PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - An initiative to groom aspiring entrepreneurs here has supported over 300 participants since it was launched six months ago.

Enterprise Singapore's (ESG) Startup SG Founder Venture Building programmes have seen close to half of these participants graduate so far.

About 80 per cent of them are mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) from various sectors of the economy including hospitality, education, social enterprise and technology.

The remaining one-fifth are fresh graduates with backgrounds in business, engineering, architecture, psychology and data analytics, ESG said on Tuesday (Feb 23).

Announced in August last year, the three-month Venture Building programmes are part of the enhanced Startup SG Founder scheme to groom aspiring entrepreneurs with no business experience to build and scale innovative start-ups.

This is done through specially curated modules that focus on critical areas like business models, digital marketing and fund raising.

Participants are also mentored by seasoned entrepreneurs and industry veterans, which enable them to get early market feedback on their business ideas with potential customers.

The programmes are held with the support of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said it is "very gratifying" to see that there are many PMETs in the programme, as well as fresh graduates.

"So we have a good mix of young people who are germinating their ideas since their university days, to mid-career people transitioning to a new career path, whereby they do start-ups with their partners and then they grow companies to create more employment for fellow Singaporeans," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after an event, held in a hybrid format on Tuesday, which allowed 14 teams of graduates to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of judges.

Organised by ESG, the event was held at co-working space JustCo at Marina Square and also live-streamed online.

Mr Chan noted that Singapore has been expanding its Global Innovation Alliance network - comprising Singapore and overseas partners in major innovation hubs and key demand markets - with a focus on technology and innovation.

"We are now in 15 cities in 11 countries and we hope to achieve (more) in the next five years. So far, more than 780 start-ups have benefited from this network.

"We will take feedback... and continue to explore possible new partnerships with other cities," he said.

Five winning teams were selected at Tuesday's event. They each received close to $40,000 worth of start-up resources and support, such as co-working spaces and enterprise tools.

One winning start-up idea presented was a healthtech platform for medical schools to provide accessible and standardised medical training and education tools. Called MediVR, it simulates real patients using virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

The team's prototype is about 80 per cent completed.

Another team presented an idea for an early childhood edutech platform with voice-driven interactive stories that enables parents to track the learning progress of the child.

Ms Melissa Ng, founder of Hummus Education, said they are aiming to create blended online and offline learning experiences for young children - combining digitally-enabled learning with offline activities.

For example, children can choose how a story unfolds with verbal commands, while also receiving cues for offline activities.

Although her team was not selected as a winner, the 30-year-old said they still had plans to explore content in other languages and expand in other countries.

"We are also planning to adapt our product for use in pre-schools and early learning centres to supplement and refresh their language learning curriculums," she said.

Hummus Education founder Melissa Ng said they are aiming to create blended online and offline learning experiences for young children. PHOTO: ENTERPRISE SINGAPORE

Ms Ng graduated from NTU with a double degree in accountancy and business administration (marketing) in 2009.

Upon graduation, she joined a local bank for six years, honing her product management, marketing and business development skills.

She later went on to pursue a Masters of Education (Developmental Psychology) full-time in 2019.

Said Ms Ng: "I want to encourage others out there who are considering leaving their comfort zones to venture into entrepreneurship or even switching paths.

"Yes, there are sacrifices (to be made) and uncertainties, but it is a journey and we learn through failures and success."

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