Start Singapore: IDA-backed Twilio lists on Nasdaq

IDA-backed Twilio lists on Nasdaq

Local venture capital firm Infocomm Investments (IIPL) saw its bank account grow fatter by a few million dollars, thanks to the public listing of its portfolio company Twilio.

Communications start-up Twilio, which offers software to help developers easily add messaging, voice and video to applications, listed on American stock exchange Nasdaq last Thursday.

Twilio's shares surged on its trading debut, nearly doubling from its initial public offer price of US$15 on its first day of trading. The company is now valued at about US$2.4 billion (S$3.2 billion).

The California-based firm is among about 20 companies that have received IIPL investments since the 2000s. IIPL, the venture arm of the Infocomm Development Authority, manages a fund of more than US$200 million.

Twilio raised US$17 million in 2011 for overseas expansion from IIPL and other foreign investors like Bessemer Venture Partners and Union Square Ventures.

IIPL did not disclose its investments in Twilio. However, industry insiders believe that it would have invested more than US$1 million.

A number of IIPL's portfolio companies have been acquired, including Singapore start-ups DS3 and JustCommodity. The respective values of the two acquisitions were undisclosed.

Otonomos pushing blockchain tech

Singapore-based blockchain start-up Otonomos wants to be the future business registry.

Its service lets new companies register their shareholdings on a digital ledger based on blockchain technology. Transactions recorded using blockchain are immutable, traceable and able to be archived.

Otonomos founder Han Verstaerte told The Straits Times that company shares are watermarked with the shareholders' identities and recorded on the ledger.

Anyone who opens the shares will have his identity verified by the system.

Its foreign and local customers prefer the service because shareholding is transparent. No one can change the share record once it is lodged with Otonomos. Each transaction has its own watermark, making it easy to track.

Otonomos also provides its customers with a one-stop shop service, filing new company registrations with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, as is required by law.

The Singapore Fintech Consortium said there are about 40 out of 225 fintech start-ups here using blockchain technology.

Other local blockchain start-ups include Bluezelle, which provides blockchain services, and Tembusu Systems, a global infrastructure that lets verified individuals transfer and manage assets more affordably and efficiently.

Acronis, another local software company, will also be offering blockchain services for organisations that want to archive financial and business records and other information.

Mr Victor Lysenko, Acronis vice-president for blockchain, said the service can prove authenticity of data.

"Each file with its fingerprint is stored on the blockchain. The file cannot be changed, which makes it good for companies which need to keep documents to meet mandatory legal requirements."

This service will be offered before the end of the year.

Blockchain can be used by banks as a safe and secure way to process payments. It can also be used to verify records that are accessed by several parties.

A patient's medical records are accessed and seen by different doctors, said Mr Lysenko.

"We need to ensure that nothing is changed in the records and that every record is accessed by the authorised user," he added.

According to The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, blockchain is gaining popularity at a time when companies face new challenges in data management and security.

Mr Vitalik Buterin, creator of the blockchain called Ethereum, told The Straits Times that Singapore has a chance to be the blockchain hub for Asia because it is a regional business centre.

"Singapore has a strong business and research community and a government that encourages innovative technological development," said China-based Mr Buterin.

These factors are advantageous to blockchain start-ups because they offer innovative and often disruptive solutions to many industries, he added. Grace Chng

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Start Singapore'. Subscribe