A start-up boot camp by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has bolstered the
local entrepreneurial scene, going by the response from investors and venture
The media company has developed 16 media, advertising and e-commerce
innovations through the SPH Plug and Play (PnP) boot camp over the past 18
The start-ups that developed the innovations will collectively raise
over $6 million in follow-on funding, an indicator that the new businesses have
The second batch of eight start- ups graduated last Friday and they are
on target to raise about $3 million from angel investors and venture
capitalists, said Mr Rudy Lim, who manages the SPH PnP boot camp, or
accelerator in industry jargon. The first batch of eight start-ups that
"graduated" last year raised over $3.6 million, including pocket
tutor Snapask, which raised more than $2.5 million.
"The media landscape is in the midst of unprecedented rapid change.
SPH needs to work with start-ups which have new ideas on how people are
consuming media and using digital technologies. Some of these ideas may be
useful to us too," said Mr Lim.
With its assets and experience, SPH can then support and accelerate
their offerings in the market, he added.
Fresh start-up ideas
The SPH Plug and Play accelerator programme takes in eight start-ups in each batch. The latest "graduates" include:
Fixir (fixir.co) allows motorists to find the best quote for car repairs and the most conveniently located workshop.
It will announce on-demand services such as car valet and polishing services.
This portal combines a crowdfunding platform with a service to help craftsmen design, create prototypes and market items such as wallets, shoes and bags. Craftsmen submit their designs and Makerscut does the rest, from raising funds and production to logistics management and customer support. The portal is still being tested and the services are not open to public yet.
Optimate offers marketing-campaign automation and optimisation using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Its software targets customers by tracking how they interact with advertisements on websites. Insights gained from the data point to the success of the marketing campaigns.
This fashion portal helps women get rid of clothes they do not want. In the six months it has been in business, it has rung up $250,000 in revenue. Of the 40,000 items of "like new" clothing it has processed, it has sold more than 20,000.
Refash collects clothes from sellers and processes them, including snapping photos of each item before listing them on the website.
This is an application for on-demand home services, including facilities bookings and payments. It offers managers a way of managing the use of facilities, and residents the option of online bookings in real time.
It also provides facility managers with reports on usage, as well as easy tracking of payments undertaken online and offline.
Started last year, the SPH PnP programme is a joint venture between SPH,
global accelerator Plug and Play from Silicon Valley, and Infocomm Investments
(IIPL), the venture arm of the Infocomm Development Authority.
Participating start-ups receive $30,000 and go through a 12-week course
where they receive guidance from experienced mentors and business leaders.
IIPL chief executive Alex Lin said the programme shows that SPH has the
internal capabilities to develop good start-ups, and that it is part of a shift
in the start-up ecosystem where the industry will play a greater role in
"This trend is a strong encouragement for SPH PnP and ourselves to
continue energising the Singapore economy through building more innovative
start-ups together," said Dr Lin.
Mr Jupe Tan of Plug and Play said SPH plays an important role as it
allows start-ups to learn from its experience and business.
"Investors provide funding but start-ups also need a place to pilot
their products and technologies. Large corporations like telcos, banks and
retailers should work with start-ups. Both will learn from this
experience," said Mr Tan, who oversees international operations.
Working with large corporations also give the start-ups a chance to sell
their new products and services to the corporations, he said, adding that his
firm is interested in working with SPH to extend the accelerator concept to
other industries and regional countries.
The people behind the start-ups agree that the SPH accelerator has
helped refine their ideas and business models.
Co-founder Ivan Chang of software start-up Wondertech said he entered
the programme with one idea and finished it with another.
"We had a technology that trawled the Web to pick up information
based on names, places and organisations. Our mentors told us this idea would
not bring in any revenue," he said.
The start-up changed its business strategy and used its expertise in
natural language processing to develop a small programme that could be embedded
in media websites to establish how long readers stayed on the sites. In its
pilot trials, Wondertech discovered that the longer a reader stays, the higher
the advertising revenue earned.
"SPH helped us learn the media business. We had discussions with
its staff and it arranged for meetings with business mentors. This let us learn
what we needed to succeed," said Mr Chang.
Mr Jeremy Lim of private tutor Snapask said that the SPH PnP accelerator
provided a good network into schools so that it could understand what students
needed from tuition.
Snapask was from the first batch of the accelerator programme last year.
"Even though the programme has ended for us, the team at SPH is still
actively seeking out business collaboration opportunities for us."
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