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Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at FundedHere's 5th Anniversary Event

Speech by MOS Alvin Tan at FundedHere's 5th Anniversary Event

Mr Daniel Lin, CEO & Co-Founder, FundedHere 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to join FundedHere’s 5th Anniversary event. 

2. I would first like to congratulate FundedHere for entering its 5th year. Its innovative solution has driven the venture financing scene and contributed to a vibrant startup ecosystem in Singapore.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many businesses but I am happy to hear that FundedHere was still able to successfully facilitate funding rounds of US$250,000 for Singapore-based mental health care startup, Safe Space, and US$3.2 million for Singapore-based foodtech startup, WhatsHalal. These are impressive achievements. 

4. Venture Capital companies such as FundedHere are key enablers in the startup ecosystem by helping founders access capital, strategic relationships, and markets. By equipping startup founders with the necessary guidance and practical tools, these startups are able to embark on their fundraising journey in an effective manner.

A vibrant startup ecosystem 

5. We all know that startups form an important part of Singapore’s economy. Tech startups, in particular, drive innovative solutions that can generate new sources of economic growth and jobs for Singaporeans.

a) To put things in perspective, in 2019, there were 3,600 tech startups in Singapore, employing about 18,000 workers, of which 60% are locals. 

b) A PwC study estimates that by 2035, startups will contribute up to 2% of gross domestic product and account for about 5% of total employment in Singapore.

6. Startups are also critical drivers of innovation as they are always looking for opportunities to challenge the status quo and are more comfortable with taking risks. In fact, innovation was a key factor for local businesses to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

a) When COVID-19 disrupted the business landscape, many of our local startups showed great resilience and nimbleness, adapting, pivoting, and responding to ever-changing situations and uncovering new opportunities. 

7. A vibrant startup ecosystem also increases the attractiveness of Singapore as not only a prime destination for investment but also a hub where new ideas and solutions are generated. This will help to rejuvenate existing industries and improve Singapore’s ability to attract and anchor business functions, such as in corporate ventures, product design and development, and R&D.

8. Let us also not forget that startups are hotbeds for the next generation of local champions. A vibrant startup ecosystem will provide entrepreneurs access to a wider spectrum of resources, such as capital, talent and innovative ideas. This will expand the pathways for local startups to scale up and to create the new industry sectors of tomorrow.

A robust venture capital landscape

 9. So how can we better nurture such innovative startups? Venture capital is key. It is crucial not just for startups to grow, but also to ensure their innovative solutions reach the stage of commercialisation. 

10. This is why the Government has been active in catalysing funding for innovative early-stage tech startups. In 2020 alone, Enterprise Singapore’s Startup SG Equity scheme catalysed over S$200 million in private sector funding in 47 startups. 

a) Under this scheme, SEEDS Capital and SGInnovate currently have over 50 investment partners co-investing in 160 Singapore-based startups. 

11. Recognising the challenges of COVID-19, the Government also ramped up efforts to support innovative startups during this challenging period: 

a) An additional $300 million top-up was made in 2020 to Startup SG Equity, to catalyse private investment into Singapore-based deep-tech startups in key emerging sectors. These sectors include pharmbio and medtech, advanced manufacturing, and agri-food tech. 

b) To help high-potential startups sustain their growth momentum, EDBI and ESG introduced the Special Situation Fund for Startups (SSFS) in the Fortitude Budget. Under this scheme, the Government will invest with private sector co-investors on a one to one basis in early to late-stage innovative startups with strategic capabilities that can contribute to Singapore’s national priorities.

A complementary public and private venture capital sector

 12. While the startup financing ecosystem in Singapore has withstood the effects of COVID-19 with timely support and intervention from the government, we must be judicious in deploying our limited resources moving forward.

a) After all, the Government cannot catalyse financing for all startups, especially if funding is deployed to artificially support unviable companies. 

13. Many of you would be familiar with the Statue of Liberty in New York City. From its position on Liberty Island, it has welcomed immigrants to the US and tourists from all over the world. However, what many might not know is that this beacon of freedom was also the result of private funding, after the US Congress rescinded funding for the pedestal that the Statue now stands on. 

a) It was the effort of Joseph Pulitzer, a newspaper publisher and namesake of the Pulitzer Prize, who harnessed the power of private citizens to raise funds for the Statue. Contributions came from all over the US and within five months, the pedestal was crowdfunded.

14. Of course, venture capitalism today is a whole different ballgame – the amounts raised are much higher than in the past, and I am happy to say, the Singapore government is happy to render our support. Nevertheless, this is an analogy for how private venture capital funding can supplement public funding to achieve long-lasting and impactful results. 

15. We are thus grateful for players in our venture capital ecosystem like FundedHere, which augment the government’s efforts to create a robust startup financing landscape in Singapore. 

a) For example, FundedHere helps startups to leverage public sector programs such as the Special Situation Fund for Startups, while building strategic relationships with investors and mentors from the private sector. By building the pedestal for the startups to stand on, the startup’s chance at success is maximised.

A Regional Startup Node

 16. Such close collaboration between public and private venture capital funding has allowed Singapore to retain our position as a leading startup node in Southeast Asia. We have observed entrepreneurs from neighbouring countries, like Indonesia and Vietnam, coming to Singapore to seek startup support and funding.

a) In recent years, there has been an upswing in investments by private sector players. Global venture capital firms, such as Lightspeed Ventures, have sunk roots in Singapore to capture opportunities in Southeast Asia.

b) FundedHere has played a part too in promoting Singapore’s role as a regional hub for startups, through facilitating promising regional startups’ access to Singapore’s world class financial and legal infrastructure.

17. Today, Singapore remains the leading investment destination in Southeast Asia.

a) In 2020, a total of about S$5.5 billion was invested in 553 deals in Singapore. This was a substantial increase from 5 years ago when there were only 240 deals, amounting to S$1.9 billion.

18. However, we cannot rest on our laurels if we want to remain an attractive destination for private venture capital. We must ensure that startups want to come to Singapore to be “funded here”, though strengthening and nurturing the vibrancy of our venture capital landscape. 

19. Our government will work hand in hand with private venture capital firms like FundedHere to ensure our advantage built up over the years will not go to waste. I am confident that FundedHere will continue to play a critical role in our venture capital landscape and I wish the company all the best for the years ahead.

20. Thank you. 

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