Two companies pledge up to $2 million to fund Republic Polytechnic start-ups

Mr Alexander Tan, founder of urban farming start-up Agritisan, pitching his proposal to a panel at the iDare Entrepreneurial Challenge held at Republic Polytechnic on Feb 14, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - Students from Republic Polytechnic (RP) and its incubated start-ups will get a boost in making their ideas a reality under an agreement signed between the polytechnic and two companies on Monday (Feb 14) to pump in up to $2 million.

Under the three-year partnership, technology and management consulting firm VE Capital Asia and e-commerce company Sheldon Global will provide funds and collaborate with RP on industry projects, student internships, mentorships and more to grow the pipeline of RP start-ups.

The companies have also put up seed funding of up to $30,000 for RP's iDare Entrepreneurial Challenge, which features the most enterprising start-up ideas from current and former students.

A total of 158 teams submitted their business plans this year to vie for funding. Only six teams made the cut to pitch their proposals, which range from urban farming to cycling, on Monday.

Among the hopefuls was Mr Alexander Tan, 27, who founded urban farming start-up Agritisan in 2020.

To help Singapore meet the national goal of producing 30 per cent of its food by 2030, he wants to offer farming as a service for a subscription fee and make it easier for vegetables grown on rooftops to reach tabletops.

Mr Tan got the brainwave when panic buying momentarily wiped vegetables off the shelves in 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and he was giving out his produce to his neighbours.

The RP student, who is taking a part-time diploma in applied science (urban agricultural technology), said the start-up plans to grow and guarantee 40kg of freshly packed greens delivered to each of its subscribers paying a monthly fee.

He said: "We're decentralising farm ownership.

"It will be so amazing if... you can go to the rooftop farm, which we own and parcel out, and say I know that my vegetables are growing here."

Currently, the start-up operates a rooftop farm in Ubi and sells its produce online.

Meanwhile, Year 2 RP business student Laurent Misso has ambitions to bring renting, fixing and transporting bikes under one super app called GoBike.

As an avid cyclist, Mr Misso, 21, said he is all too familiar with the usual pain points such as finding a reliable repair shop or getting stuck in the rain with no transport while cycling.

Having trialled his service by forming networks on Telegram, he added that he gets two to three requests to transport bicycles each day.

Both Mr Tan and Mr Misso were among the 158 teams - a record number - that submitted their business ideas under this year's RP entrepreneurial challenge, which is running for the fifth year.

The challenge gives start-ups a chance to develop their products with funding opportunities and to establish important networks.

RP senior director for student services Ashley Chua said that following the pitching session by the six teams on Monday, they are in discussions with the industry panel or potential investors and their RP mentors to fine-tune their business models and work towards funding possibilities.

On start-ups that make the cut, Sheldon Global managing director Brien Chua said: "The ideation process is always full of passion but bringing it to market is where some of them tend to collapse along the way.

"But the more important thing is, can passion give you the returns?"

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