The National Research Foundation (NRF) of the Prime Minister’s Office of Singapore has announced six venture capital funds to take part in the second round of its Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) program. The NRF will contribute S$10 million to each of the 6 funds on a matching basis for a total of S$120 million to go towards capitalization of Singapore-based tech startups.
Under the program, the NRF makes matching 1:1 investments up to S$10 in each of the venture funds to be used to fund early-stage local high tech startups in Singapore. The NRF then takes a corresponding equity stake in each of the funded companies.
The scheme received 32 proposals last November from the initial call for proposals. These were whittled down to a shortlist of 18 candidates. The NRF then selected an eight member panel composed of representatives from both the public and private sectors to chose the final six venture capital funds. The range of investment for the chosen six venture funds is to include clean technologies, medical technologies, communication technologies, and industrial applications.
According to the NRF’s press release, the chairman of the selection panel, Mr Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chaiman of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), had this to say:
With a growing pipeline of exciting new tech startups in Singapore, founders will require funding, experienced mentorship and strong networks to build companies that can compete in worldwide markets. We want to help build an investor community based in Singapore but with connections around the world. The six venture capital funds and fund managers selected have an excellent reputation of helping build the companies that they fund, and their successes will further strengthen our tech startup ecosystem.
Additional comments were provided by Prof. Low Teck Seng, CEO of NRF, who said:
We recognize that it is very competitive for high-tech startups to secure follow-on financing as they have to fight with the best in the region to get VCs’ attention. Through this investment, the government is addressing the gap in Series A funding, which is critical in sustaining the rapid growth of startups beyond the seed stage. With their expertise and savvy investments, VCs will help commercialize promising technologies into innovative products.
The National Research Foundation is a department of the Prime Minister’s Office that was set up in 2006. Their directive is to set up policies for research, innovation, and enterprise. It is also charged with establishing funding channels for research and development in Singapore. It’s goal is to transform Singapore into a hub of research and technology, and to attract the brightest minds from the region and beyond.
In 2008, the Early Stage Venture Fund was implemented by the NRF in order to provide funding to venture capital funds on a 1:1 matching basis to be used to for early-stage investment in local high-tech companies. The first round of funding took place in 2008, and at that time the NRF provided a total of S$50 million to five venture funds. Those first five funds were: Bioveda Capital, Extream Ventures, New Asia Investments, Raffles Venture Partners, and Walden International. Of the original five venture funds, Walden International is the only one to be part of this second round of funding.
The original five venture funds to receive NRF matching funds has to date invested in 24 startups. Among these early stage companies, some of the notable success stories are: HungryGoWhere restaurant review portal, Brandtology online business intelligence services, and YFind Technologies, which has developed an indoor positioning system.