One of the key drivers of Singapore’s hospitality industry is the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) business. SGpad, an iPad rental service, is looking to ride on the growth in the MICE industry with Micepad, an app that enhances the conference experience for attendees.
With Micepad, an event organiser can easily customise and deploy a complete event engagement app by choosing the required modules and uploading content. One of the things I frequently do at events is to google further information about the speakers. Micepad eliminates the constraints of print and enables event organisers to provide more information to their attendees.
Another great feature of Micepad is the ability to distribute relevant documents to attendees. No longer will there be a need to remember that SlideShare link or hunt for a copy of the presentation on the Internet.
Micepad also doubles up as an audience engagement tool and comes with inbuilt discussion boards and live poll feedback features.
Kevin, one of the founders of Micepad, shared with me that the service has been adopted by leading financial institutions and software consultancies such as Standard Chartered Bank, SAP and Wipro to name a few (the other clients have their names withheld by NDAs). The team has implemented Micepad in Singapore and Hong Kong over the past few months and they plan to expand to other markets like Malaysia, Hong Kong and New York with the help of newly acquired channel partners over the next few months.
Having thrown away countless of paper collected at events, I can see the usefulness of an application like Micepad both to attendees and event organisers.
One of the key challenges of apps like Micepad is deciding whether they are meant to complement or substitute the traditional print materials used at events. If it is the former, then cost and functions will be important in adoption; if it is the latter, then availability for a wide range of devices is key (currently the full version of Micepad is available only for the iPad).
By Isaac Souweine, GM for Pollenizer Southeast Asia. A version of this post first appeared on the Pollenizer blog.
I’ve met with dozens of folks over the past months who are interested in the Singapore startup scene. The questions they asked were often similar, so I thought I would take a crack at writing up my standard responses. For the record, this post is not meant to replace a good coffee chat, just to make those chats even more productive and interesting.
Q: How can I learn more about the scene from the internet?
A: There are three main blogs that cover the Singapore scene:
- e27 – Strong coverage across SEA plus tidbits from across Asia Pac. Highest volume of articles.
- Tech In Asia – Broad Asian perspective with good drill down on SEA and some good analysis.
- SGE.io- Lowest volume but strong on analysis and research pieces.
Jon Russell of the Next Web also weighs in semi-regularly on the SEA scene, and there are a few entrepreneurs and investors who blog semi-regularly:
This list is not exhaustive i.e. I’ve probably forgotten some other folks who share regularly. For online discussions, the JFDI Open Frog list is a good place to start. Read more
The National University of Singapore has been positioning itself as a leader in innovation, and their efforts have been reflected in a recent MIT study that ranks them among the world’s elite.
To further spur its march towards becoming Asia’s Stanford, NUS has today announced the launch of Living Lab, an initiative that will turn the university’s Kent Ridge campus into a giant petri dish for tech startups, researchers, and larger companies. Read more
Among tech startup circles in Singapore, Yuuzoo is not a tech company that’s particularly well-known.
But the social media and e-commerce firm, which even has a Square-like mobile point-of-sales system, recently caused a small blip on the radar by completing a reverse takeover of public-listed but declining hardware company Contel, paving the way for an entry into the Singapore Stock Exchange. The deal gives Yuuzoo majority ownership of Contel, valued at USD 582.3M.
Contel’s share price has remained at USD 0.08 since the announcement.
It isn’t stopping there. Now comes news that Yuuzoo has made another acquisition, this time a cash and share deal with IAHGames, a games distributor and operator in Singapore. Read more
Travel startups have been unimaginative when it comes to how they want to disrupt the industry. Most of them are consumer-facing apps that help consumers discover, book, or search for deals — essentially variations on the ideal neighborhood travel agent.
In this vein, Tripconomics is doing something entirely different. Rather than targeting the crowded consumer market, this Singapore startup is hoping to uncover what it sees as a hidden gem: the world of corporate travel management.
As I understand from co-founder Keson Lim, a corporate travel veteran, the industry is dominated by large corporate travel agencies that handle global accounts on large retainers.
These companies, which have call centers around the world, typically service corporations with revenue above USD 250 million (think brands like Energizer, HSBC, and Prada), handling flights, hotels, insurance, and visas.
For ‘smaller’ firms with ‘only’ tens of millions in revenue, they usually manage their travel arrangements and expenses in-house. That’s the crowd that the startup is targeting.
In a nutshell, Tripconomics is a web tool for corporates to manage the travel expenses and plans of their employees. The user can manage travel profiles for staff of different seniorities, setting useful details like budget limitations. Read more
The DS3 family. Teik Guan is wearing a yellow shirt. Photo: DS3
For twelve years, Tan Teik Guan has been carrying the weight of the company and its employees on his back, first as DS3‘s CTO and then as CEO in 2006.
One wrong move could affect not just his 50 employees but also their families. It’s a huge burden to bear, especially since a startup lacks the stability of a large company.
“I didn’t just have my own kids to think about — all my employees are like my children,” he said.
But his reprieve finally came. In April this year, the management successfully sold the Singapore-based IT security firm to Gemalto, a multi-national corporation in the same industry. DS3 has been making profit by selling authentication software to banks.
While the specifics of the deal cannot be disclosed, he and the other co-founders, Zvi Efroni and Kelvin Teo, are happy with how it turned out.
For Teik Guan especially, who left his cushy government job to join an unknown company as the first employee post Dot-Com bust, the rewards were especially sweeter.
“Oh my gosh, it was a huge burden off my back,” he said. Read more
While traditional media in the United States have been reeling from the digital media revolution, registering millions in losses, shutdowns, and layoffs, their counterparts in Southeast Asia have been insulated from its devastating effects.
But maybe not for long.
Well aware that the window to adapt is fast closing, the region’s big media are finally getting more serious about investing in technology. Take this recent piece of news as an example: Scoop, a popular digital newsstand in Indonesia, has raised SGD 3M (USD 2.4M) in Series B funding from Kompas Gramedia, the country’s largest media conglomerate.
It’s certainly a good result for Scoop, which previously raised SGD 1M in Series A funding, hinting at a substantial increase in valuation for the company. The service currently has 210k monthly active users, with 90 percent coming from Indonesia.
Willson Cuaca, CEO of Apps Foundry, the company behind Scoop, says that this is the first non-controlling minority stake the media giant has taken in a foreign entity (App Foundry is based in Singapore). Prior to this, Kompas has either been developing its own products or acquiring other companies.
This significant development is no isolated incident. Read more
Singapore startup Gametize has launched a new app that focuses entirely on consumers. Called Lifeplay, it adopts all the consumer-focused features that were in the previous version of GameMaki, leaving the new iteration of the latter as a part of the company’s gamification platform for enterprises. Read more
Flocations, a Singapore startup that got a lot of attention for its online service that lets users search plane tickets by price, has quietly changed direction. It is now a meta search engine for tour packages.
The company currently has 1,068 packages from 10 travel agencies on its website, which is more than the 368 listed on inSing.com, one of Singapore’s largest lifestyle portals. The move, while keeping the startup in the travel and tourism space, is certainly a drastic turn.
Flocations raised USD 570k from TNF Ventures and SingTel Innov8 recently. They were also a graduate and investee from seed accelerator JFDI.Asia, which ran its first bootcamp in 2012. Read more
Much has been said about how governments around the world are trying to replicate Silicon Valley in their own backyards. The prevailing view is that having a strong innovation-supportive university is critical to creating a successful startup ecosystem.
In that regard, Singapore is on the right track. According to a new MIT-Skoltech study, which interviewed 61 ‘experts’ from around world in 2012, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is deemed to be among the top ten universities that “created/supported the world’s most successful technology innovation ecosystems.”
How authoritative is this study?
Tempting as it might be to take this study at face value, the methodology deserves further scrutiny.
Experts were picked based on how well-cited they are by academic journals and their active involvement in respective startup ecosystems. Snowball sampling was also used, which means the research team relied on recommendations from fellow expects to select interview candidates.
The study is highly qualitative in nature: interviewers asked open-ended question that were later analysed and collated. As such, answers tend to be highly subjective and may not truly indicate how innovative-supportive universities are, relative to one another.
Some universities may have been left out simply because they are new, low-key, or didn’t do much marketing. I also have my doubts about whether experts are knowledgeable enough about all key universities around the globe to make a truly informed comparison.
At best, this study captures the opinion of the thought leaders in the field of entrepreneurship, opinions which nonetheless carry a lot of weight because they are both actors and experts in their ecosystems. Ultimately, their opinions will shape the health, prestige, and development of startup ecosystems around the world.
So, while the notion that NUS is placed 8th and UC Berkeley 10th is disputable, this study should still be taken seriously.
What does the study actually say?
The study sought to find out which universities most supportive of innovation. Seven factors were identified by experts to contribute to the success of a university ecosystem:
- An institutionalized entrepreneurship and innovation culture.
- Strength of university leadership in establishing an ecosystem.
- University research capability.
- Local or regional quality of life.
- Regional or government support.
- Effective institutional strategy.
- Powerful student-led entrepreneurship drive.
While NUS was picked for the top ten, there’s no indication whether these seven facets were applied uniformly by experts or whether they were weighed the same way by each individual. Most likely not.
However, it isn’t difficult to explain why NUS has made the list. The Singapore government has been pouring money into entrepreneurship and innovation, benefiting NUS in the process.
The university also has a structured and coherent approach towards developing a culture of innovation. It has the NUS Overseas Colleges program, a work and study scheme where students are placed in universities and startups in San Francisco and elsewhere.
It also runs a startup incubator through NUS Enterprise, funding startups with the iJAM scheme as well as providing mentorship and office space.
Asian universities still have a long way to go
Save for NUS, no other university from the Asia-Pacific region made the list. China, however, did emerge as one of the countries that has most benefited from innovation-supportive universities.
So, while no single university in China stood out, their combined force has certainly propped up China’s ecosystem. That said, it does seem that Asian countries are not in position to challenge the likes of Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge anytime soon.
One question which the report doesn’t quite answer (not that it’s attempting to) is the causation between an innovation-supportive university and the strength of a startup ecosystem it resides in.
While a correlation exists when one compares the countries highlighted in this study with the Startup Genome report, what’s less clear is how crucial an innovation-friendly university is in creating a successful startup environment, or whether is it simply the end-product of a well-developed ecosystem.
But I do have a sense that bottom-up innovation, or the notion that entrepreneurs must be the ones driving entrepreneurial initiatives, is the only sustainable approach in the long run.
So it doesn’t matter if a strong innovation-led university is set up in a culture and environment that’s unfriendly to startups.
What matters ten times more is whether the government can bring change in the country or city’s prevailing culture in short order, nurture the next tech millionaires or billionaires, and get them to contribute back to the system.