SGE - (SGE)
Covering the Singapore and Southeast Asia startup and entrepreneurship scene since 2005.
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Fresh from launching a new USD 10M fund to invest in Asia’s startups, global internet and e-commerce giant, Rakuten is making a new move to engage the region’s entrepreneurs. The Rakuten Startup Challenge’13 is a new competition targeted at aspiring e-commerce entrepreneurs based in Singapore who are interested to actually create online stores under hands-on mentorship from Rakuten itself. The overall individual winner will also win an all-expenses paid trip to Tokyo and the opportunity to be meet and be mentored by the Rakuten HQ team.
The entire Challenge will take place over 3 months, and the deadline for application is May 24th.
Judges are some of the big wigs here: Toru Shimada (CEO, Rakuten Asia), Shin Hasegawa (Marketing Head, Rakuten Asia), Jacob Levine (Producer, Rakuten Web Services Group) and Saemin Ahn (Managing Partner, Rakuten Ventures).
After the application, a set of participants will be selected to move on to the actual building round. In this round, participants will build an actual e-commerce store, using APIs that grab Rakuten products from their global database, and under the mentorship of a Rakuten Business Team member. The final round will see an event narrower set of participants pitch at the final Challenge.
You can sign up for the Rakuten Startup Challenge here. Submit by May 24th 2013.
Disclaimer: Rakuten is a client and partner of SGE.
Entering a new market can be a daunting task. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore has launched a private edition of TechResources.US, a trusted, up-to-date online directory of over 1,500 US-based people, events, organisations and industry verticals in tech to help Singapore infocomm companies interested in the US market.
TechResources.US enables you to:
- Search specifically for tech investors, thought leaders, communities and conferences.
- Find US-based service providers including law, accounting and other localisation firms with experience in helping businesses establish themselves in the US market.
How to access TechResources: Request for a private access code by emailing email@example.com. You will receive info on the registration process and access
The notion of mentorship is an iffy one. Whether or not a mentor-mentee relationship can help your business hinges on whether advice-giver has the relevant skills and knowledge to give insight. But it’s not just about a head full of information: A mentor’s network can be invaluable, as well as an acute understanding of your business context and situation and the ability to give advice suited to your circumstances.
With that in mind, we consulted the experts at Ask ACE, a platform for startup-related questions, on precisely this conundrum, and here’s their advice:
Gareth Poh Walker, founder of Preston & Walker, a celebrity and speaker management firm and GA Walker, a funds and grants consultancy firm:
A mentor is a person with more experience in business, or simply in life, who can help an entrepreneur hone her or his abilities and advise him or her on navigating new challenges.
Before you go about finding a Mentor: Know what you want first.
Knowing your business goals helps the mentor better understand what value he adds to your mentoring relationship and how he can best advise you.
What can your mentor do for you? Determining what type of resource or skills you need is the next crucial step in the mentor hunt. For example, are you looking for someone who’s a good sounding board for ideas, well-connected or with expertise in a certain area such as sales, marketing or operations. After you determine the qualities you’re looking for in a mentor, narrow down the list to the most important three to five resource or skills that is applicable to you now.
The next step is to ‘informally interview a few candidates and check against your criteria to see if there’s a right fit to your current business needs. By having a combination of the qualitative and quantitative skills and resource attributes of each of your potential mentors, an ideal candidate will surface.
Finding a mentor: Know Where to Look
Below is a list as a general guide, it is not meant to be exhaustive but, it’s a start.
1) Start with family and friends – ask around for recommendations from family and friends to connect you to experienced business owners that can be potential mentors
2) Attend business networks – The next step is to expand your circle of contacts. While you are searching for a mentor, you can expand your network or even find a couple of clients along the way.
3) Complete strangers – Need more choices? Consider researching profiles of business owners in magazines, newspapers and the internet for someone who matches your criteria.Find out as much as you can about the potential mentor and try to contact them to work out a potential mentorship relationship.
Lim Song Joo, Founder & CEO at BWG Consulting Pte Ltd:
Let me share with you how I view the different persona of Mentors. Let’s call one group the Mentor-Coach: refers to a person/role that can guide you in your development. The relationship is possibly one that will work with you and chart your (company) development over a longer period of time. This mentor adopts a nurturing approach and is akin to a “guardian”. One who will be there to walk the journey and a shoulder to lean on.
The other type, I’ll call it the Mentor-Expert: refers to a person/role that has very specific skills or strengths that you need to help you overcome a problem or difficult situation. This person has the depth of experience and wherewithal to guide you towards a solution. He or she possesses relevant credentials in their professional background and adopts a more quantitative approach towards mentoring.
There is no clear distinction between the 2. Generally, mentors are capable and qualified to provide the necessary support, it just depends on which persona type they lean towards.
When looking for a Mentor, ask yourself what your issues are and look within yourself which style of mentoring suits you (your company) better. If you are facing a technical dilemma, you would seek help from a mentor that has the right technical background, or a Subject Matter Expert (SMEs) to start with. If you are looking for ground up support, then someone who has been there in a similar capacity will be a good guiding hand to support you.
Once you are clear what your needs are, then you can look around for mentoring help. You can start with your inner circle of network, then expanding out to associations, Alumni, or explore specific help group run by government agencies like IE Singapore, SPRING, or ACE, etc. You may also contact the ACE Secretariat if you need any help on securing mentors.
Jeffrey Paine, co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures and Founder Institute Singapore:
First, figure out what skill gap you are lacking and the type of mentor you are seeking. Do a lot of primary research online to find the potential mentors. Hustle to try to meet them, cold email do work. Be humble and respectful of their time.
Singapore startup AdzCentral, which is building an online targeted media buying platform, has made a string of hires after its recent USD 3.2M Series A round raised from Electric Sheep Capital and Digital Media Partners. The new executives have previous stints at companies such as Yahoo!, Living Social, NBC, and Deutsche Bank. Read more
Lots of Buttons has won the Startup Asia Arena battle this year, winning USD 10,000 in cash. The startup operates a button store that helps crafters and manufacturers find what they need with the ease and convenience of online shopping and prices typically 50% below convention.
Startup Asia is a tech startup conference held at Biopolis in Singapore, which together with Echelon are the biggest ones in the country.
The 2012 winner was Teamie, a student collaboration platform.
Twenty startups from 9 countries were picked from over 300 submissions. Here’s a roundup of the 20: Read more
“Should I work on my pet project full-time?” For many, making the leap can be terrifying. On Ask ACE, a Q&A platform on entrepreneurship, we get plenty questions relating to the initial phases of starting up, and how to go about it. Here’s a multi-part question along with a number of insightful responses addressing different angles:
I’m a software engineer currently bootstrapping a software project (opentraits.com). I’m the sole founder and owner. Not that I wanted this, but the project simply evolved from other projects and I started coding it passionately. Two months later the project has a demo and the feedback is positive. Technically, things are brilliant, but there’s little time left to spend on the business side. I can’t afford the staff yet.
I have a few questions:
What do you think is the best move for me? Should I go looking for people willing to join the startup for equity? Where do I start looking for people on the business side and how do I evaluate them (considering I’m experienced mostly on the technical side)? How should I negotiate?
Or should I go directly for Angel Investments and hire staff? Is it true that most Angel Investors will not consider startups with sole founders? What is the startup size when this changes? Is it common to find Angel Investors that will both invest money and work at least part time on a startup? How can I find these people?
SPRING Singapore, a government agency that promotes local enterprises, has come up with a Budget Flyer on the 2013 measures for SMEs. It provides a snapshot of the Budget measures across all the government agencies that impact SMEs, as well as various SPRING program that SMEs and startups can tap on. It also contains important contact details of EnterpriseOne, EDCs, government agencies and other useful resources.
Guide to 2013 Budget Measures for SMEs
Technical co-founders, while important, are hard to come by. However, there are certain startup ideas that are technically challenging and requires very specialized knowledge, and there are many other ideas that are more of a business model innovation. In the latter case, a technical co-founder may not be important initially.
Here’s a question on Ask ACE, an online Q&A platform for startup topics, that addresses this issue. Responses from mentors follow:
Does it make sense to look for a technical co-founder, or should a business-centric founder look for a vendor or hire a technical team instead? Read more
Hiring an in-house developer versus outsourcing to external vendors — it’s an eternal debate. While there are merits to both approaches, the challenge is in working out which option works best with your set of circumstances. Then there’s a matter of how one should engage a vendor and how does one take care of IP rights and potential conflicts in terms of working styles?
Fortunately on Ask ACE, an online Q&A platform for startup-related issues, we have experts on hand to give advice to questions like these. Here’s what some of them said when asked on this topic. Read more
Investors come in all shape and sizes. While some might have the right interests and motivations at heart, others are only concerned about the bottom line rather than the health of the company as a whole. On Ask Ace, an online Q&A platform for startup-related topics, we get plenty of investment-related queries. Here’s one related to an angel with no relevant experience in the business.
I have an investment offer from an angel. But I don’t know if I should take it because this investor has no experience in investing and has not worked in my company’s field before. Not very smart money is it? But I need the cash to grow the business. Read more