Getting enough money to launch and run a start-up is the bugbear of every aspiring entrepreneur. Thankfully, there are always newer and newer avenues that fledgling businesses can tap on for cash.
Here are possibilities that have opened up.
There are accelerators and there are incubators. Incubators are good for start-ups in the early stages. They provide resources – money, legal and management advice, lab and office space, mentoring schemes, marketing – in exchange for equity.
Accelerators are for more established start-ups. Working within a set and usually short (just weeks or months) timeframe, they give the necessary boost to businesses for them to accomplish what would otherwise take years.
Entrepreneur First Singapore programme
Last year, Entrepreneur First began its programme in Singapore. The London-based accelerator supports engineers and computer scientists to build tech companies from scratch. No team? No money? No problem. Entrepreneur First helps you find a co-founder, develop your idea, get customers and raise funds.
In its first Singapore programme, each of the 12 teams picked got a monthly stipend of S$5,000. Each company created would receive S$25,000 of investment as well as S$42,500 of funds from Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist, SparklabsGlobal, and a further S$50,000 from SGInnovate.
The second round of the programme begins in September 2017.
US tech giant, Oracle, brought its accelerator programme – Startup Cloud Accelerator - to Singapore early this year as part of its expansion into Asia. Oracle has six other centres worldwide including three in India, and one each in Bristol, Paris, Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv.
Its six-month-long programme includes technical and business mentoring, state-of-the-art technology, a co-working space, access to the Oracle network along with Oracle Cloud credits which open up more than 50 services that can be used.
A call for application will be made later this year.
2. Makara Innovation Fund (MIF)
This is a new S$1 billion-fund set up by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and Singapore-based private equity firm, Makara Capital. The money will go to help promising companies with strong intellectual property (IP) expand into the global market. 10 to 15 young companies will receive between S$30 and S$150 million in investment.
MIF is the first Southeast Asian private equity investment fund that will source IP-driven companies internationally and capitalise on cross-border regional expansion.
3. Tie-ups with incumbents
Start-ups needn’t be upstarts. Big corporations are increasingly seeing start-ups more as opportunities than competition, and are partnering them. Property company, Savills, invested in its first start-up, Pegaxis, late last year. Property giant, City Developments Limited (CDL), invested in tech start-up, Whiteboard, in 2012. The start-up has since merged with CDL. The Ascott, CapitaLand’s serviced residence arm, invested USS$50 million in Tujia. The online apartment-sharing platform has been dubbed China’s Airbnb.
In 2016, General Motors invested US$1 billion in a 30-man autonomous vehicle start-up while Unilever pumped US$1 billion into Dollar Shave Club, a razor start-up.
4. Enter a competition
Competitions can spell a windfall for winners. Even if you don’t get the prize, the exposure can’t hurt. For the last few years, Channel NewsAsia and Slush Pitching Competition have organised a competition for start-ups that not only promises a place in the Slush 100 Pitching Competition but also seed funding of up to S$500,000 for each of the four winners, not to mention international exposure on a television programme.
Part of the Singapore Fintech Festival, Fintech Awards, is another platform for start-ups to get fame and fortune. The Awards recognise the most innovative fintech solutions implemented by start-ups, financial institutions and tech companies. 2016’s winners got between S$50,000 and S$250,000 in prize money.
The Ironman of start-up competitions must be the Extreme Tech Challenge, considered the world’s largest start-up competition. Here, start-up teams with scalable products battle each other. At stake – a chance to pitch to renowned entrepreneur, Richard Branson, global visibility and resources to augment your scale-up.
Only start-ups disruptive within a market of at least US$1 billion need apply.