Sunday 25 January 2015

JTC, SPRING plan more launch pads to nurture start-ups

By Tan Weizhen, TODAY, 24 Jan 2015

With the growth in the start-up scene in Singapore gathering rapid momentum, the Government is planning more hotbeds to nurture these entrepreneurs: As the Republic’s mini-version of Silicon Valley — dubbed JTC LaunchPad @ one-north — was officially opened yesterday, a second start-up community is already in the works.

A project by JTC Corp (JTC) and SPRING Singapore, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north provides start-ups less than five years old with a supportive environment, such as more affordable office rentals, networking spaces and opportunities as well as mentorship from incubators located in the same area. Comprising three blocks at Ayer Rajah Crescent, 71, 73 and 79, and another three to be built over 2016 and 2017, the entire 5ha development can house 750 start-ups when completed.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who officiated the opening yesterday, said: “Our part, as the Government, is to try to make your role, your functions, starting up businesses, easier and more hassle-free. For example, not having to run around looking for space to rent, to find mentors or access to financing, so that you can concentrate on building the best product and service and getting your little start-up past that first stage.”

“And so, the Government will have this conducive environment and create the right legal framework, the proper IP (intellectual protection), connect you with the people who can help you, bring you together in a nice environment like this where you can … spark off a new idea,” he added.

Sports facilities, as well as food-and-beverage outlets, can lend some respite to start-ups working around the clock, Mr Lee said. And if anybody wants a pizza at say, 2am, it “can be delivered by a drone”, he quipped.

Noting that 90 per cent of the current three blocks at JTC LaunchPad @ one-north has already been taken up by start-ups, incubators and venture capitalists, Mr Lee revealed that a second LaunchPad is in the works, which JTC said will be located near the CleanTech Park next to Nanyang Technological University.

The JTC LaunchPad @ one-north community started with only Block 71, which Mr Lee quoted the Economist as saying is “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem”, with 1,200 people in 260 start-ups and 25 incubators.

“The seeds have been sown and some of them are already bearing fruit,” he said, citing the example of online marketplace Carousell, which he had been told was popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Both JTC and SPRING said yesterday they were confident that demand would be high enough to fill capacity at JTC LaunchPad @ one-north and future LaunchPads. The number of start-ups here has nearly doubled from 23,000 in 2004 to 42,000 in 2013, they noted.

Mr Tan Kai Hoe, chief executive of SPRING Singapore, added that start-ups hired about 306,000 in 2013, representing about 9 per cent of the total workforce in Singapore.

On the location of new LaunchPads in other parts of Singapore, Mr Heah Soon Poh, assistant chief executive of Cluster Group 1 at JTC, said: “It depends on demand and where the other clusters are coming up. In Singapore, perhaps we can have another one in the east and north, but it depends. We will see how the one at CleanTech Park grows.”

Incubators and start-ups are relishing the networking opportunities and synergies that result from being housed in the same space. Small World Group Incubator, housed in Block 71, has supported about seven start-ups located in the same block.

One of them is three-year-old BioMachines, which develops solutions for agriculture and smart cities.

“There is a lot of synergy being in the same space as our incubator and other start-ups, in developing products,” said its co-founder Sven Yeo.

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