Ask any fledgling startups about their biggest struggle as a company and they will, without a doubt, give you a universal answer: the lack of sufficient capital to get their business rolling.
This is why capital infusion from private firms and the government could not be overstated enough as a valuable contribution in uplifting the entrepreneurial atmosphere for startups in Singapore.
Here’s a list of various government-initiated fund schemes, venture capital and private equity firms that startups can use to help them have access to funds for their business ideas.
Government Grants and Schemes for Startups
1. ESVF (Early Stage Venture Fund)
ESVF This is a specialized program initiated by the National Research Foundation (NRF) that seeks to collaborate with venture capital firms and invest in startups. This scheme is focused on startups in the early Series A stage and beyond.
2. ACE Startup Grants
ACE or Action Community for Entrepreneurship Grant is an innovative scheme initiated by the government to boost entrepreneurship in Singapore.
While most of its programs are managed by the private sector, it will still remain funded by the government. One of the major highlights of this program is offering a grant worth up to S$50,000 or US$38,800 to entrepreneurs.
3. i.JAM (IDM Jump-start and Mentor)
An initiative of Media Development Authority, i.JAM is a grant scheme that offers government funds to promising startups via the government-selected private sector incubators. Funds are extended generally in two sections: first, funds of up to S$50,000 or US$38,000 are given.
Second, once the requirements are met, startups can get funds worth S$200,000, 50% of which will be matched by a third-party investor.
4. PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit)
PIC is not a startup scheme per se, however, it can still provide amazing benefits for startups. They offer cash payout scheme and tax incentives to SMEs under the technology or productivity sector. Many startups are using this to pay off their employee’s IT devices and equipment, as well as research & development costs.
Qualifying businesses can seek 400% tax deductions or allowances and on up to S$600,000 of their expenditure each year for YAs 2015-2018, or convert up to $100,000 of their expenditure for each year into a non-taxable cash payout.
5. WDA Subsidies (Workforce Development Authority Subsidies)
WDA Subsidies is not limited only to startups but still very beneficial to all types of businesses. WDA is a government agency in Singapore that sponsors up to 90% of the course tuition fees to employees who wish to upgrade their skills and knowledge at a selected learning institutions such as Hyper Island and Institute of Systems Science.
6. Enhanced BIF (Business Improvement Fund, formerly, TTF – Tourism Technology Fund)
For tourism-oriented startups, The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) combined its old Tourism Technology Fund (TTF) and Business Improvement Fund (BIF) into an enhanced BIF and Kickstart Fund to assist travel agents improve their productivity and integrate technological advancements in the tourism industry.
70% of the qualifying costs will be awarded by STB to Singapore-registered companies that develop tech products for tourism businesses.
7. (Fast-Tech) Fast-Track Environmental and Water Technologies Incubator Scheme
Fast-Tech scheme is aimed at accelerating growth of environmental and water companies by providing funding and mentoring from expert incubators.
Startups with sound technical ideas in innovating the water and environment technology can seek funding of up 85% of the qualifying costs per approved projects with a maximum of S$500,000/project. Length of the financial assistance will be provided for up to two years.
8. SEEDS (SPRING Startup Enterprise Development Scheme)
A co-founding scheme that will bridge third party investors, SPRING SEEDS will help bridge startups with investors with up to S$1 million (US$770,000) investments. The first round of funds provided by SPRING SEED is generally capped at S$300,000 (US$232,000).
9. TIS (Technology Incubation System)
Another scheme initiated by the National Research Foundation Singapore, TIS aims to match 85% of the investments from the venture capital partners with early-stage startups. The investment is capped at S$500,000 or US$385,000 for each company. Investors can opt to buy back stake from NRF in the startup in three years.
10. SSA (Sector Specific Accelerator Program)
A SPRING-initiated funding scheme, SSA focuses on niche sectors like clean tech and med tech. In 2014, the government announced that they are pouring S$70 million to med tech startups through this scheme.
11. TECS (Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme)
TECS is funding initiative that funds R&D projects done by early-stage startups which target developing innovative technology that can be produced for the mass market.
It is divided into two grants which depend on how mature the technology is. Through this scheme, a startup may get up to S$750,000 or US$579,000.
12. CEF (ComCare Enterprise Fund)
CEF is managed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development which offers seed funding of up to 80% of the capital expenditures and operating costs within the first two years for social enterprises that train and employ disadvantaged Singapore citizens. Maximum funds given is S$300,000.
Venture Capital Firms
13. Fenox Venture Capital
With Silicon Valley as its main headquarters, Fenox Venture Capital expanded its presence in Singapore, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and the Middle East.
They actively invest in emerging technologies targeting health, big data, cloud, IT, payment systems, mobile and consumer Internet. Anis Uzzaman and Vitaliy Arbuzov are the founders behind Fenox VC.
14. Golden Gate Ventures
Golden Gate Ventures is a global venture capital firm targeting companies that create revolutionary internet products and services in Southeast Asia, particularly in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. The best way to get in touch with them is through referrals in events.
15. IDG Ventures SEA
A multinational venture capital firm under its mother company, IDG Ventures, which boasts an impressive $3.7 billion investments and 220 companies under its management. They focus on media, telecommunication and technology startups in Southeast Asia.
16. Gree Ventures
Gree Ventures is a venture capital firm in Japan with streamlined investments in areas such as cloud services, adtech, ecommerce and marketing platforms. They invest in early stage startups (Series A and Pre-Series) mainly in Japan and Southeast Asia.
In May 2014, Gree Ventures was involved in the US$1.3 million funding for Yoyo Holdings, a Singaporean mobile rewards startup.
17. Fortune Venture Investment Group
With interests in technology-oriented industries in the US, Mainland China and Hong Kong, this venture capital and private equity firm has expanded their investments in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. Fortune Singapore was established in April 1999 to promote technopreneurship in Singapore.
18. Upstream Ventures
In 2003, Upstream Ventures was established in Singapore focusing on early-stage companies targeting Asian and global markets in sectors like Internet, security and biometrics, IT software and solutions, semiconductors and interactive digital media (IDM).
19. Singtel Innov8
Innov8 is a wholly-owned corporate venture capital subsidiary of Singtel Group, Singapore’s biggest telecom company, which invests in early and late-stage startups in Asia Pacific, US and Europe.
20. Infocomm Investments
With more than S$200 million managed under its portfolio, Infocomm Investments provides venture capital funds to infocomm technology startups in Singapore.
They help them from early stage towards its growth and expansion. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), one of the government agencies in Singapore.
21. Digital Media Partners
Digital Media Partners is a venture capital firm that pours their investments in the emerging digital markets sector, particularly for early-stage and growth stage startups in Southeast Asia.
In August 2014, they led a US$1.5 million series A funding for WearYouWant, a Thai fashion e-store, to help penetrate Thai’s busy fashion e-commerce market.
22. Sequoia Capital
One of the world’s leading venture capital firms, majority of Sequoia Capital’s investments in Asia are focused on China and India-based startups at the growth-stage and beyond. Mr. Yinglan Tan is the venture partner from Singapore that manages investments for Sequoia Capital team in India.
23. Northstar Group
A private equity firm headquartered in Singapore, Northstar has over US$2.2 billion equity capital aimed for growth startups in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Since 2003, they have invested in more than 25 companies under the financial services, oil and gas, insurance, agribusiness, retail and telecom industries.
24. 3V SourceOne Capital
A private equity firm with offices based in Singapore and the Silicon Valley, 3V SourceOne Capital targets growth to late-stage startups in Asia. They mostly collaborate with co-investors in Southeast Asia, China and US.
Venstar is an Asian private equity firm with combined 50 years of expertise in venture capital and private equity management, investment banking and business consultancy. With its main office headquartered in Singapore, Venstar have invested in more than 50 companies in Asia, with 30 of them having been divested through IPOs in Hong Kong or Singapore.
They mostly invest in growth sectors such as petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, offshore marine, environmental engineering, resources and energy, medical services and growth manufacturing.
26. Phillip Private Equity
Originally known as ECICS Management Pte Ltd, Phillip Private Equity, is one of the top Singapore-based private equity firms. They facilitate capital through equity and debt financing to accelerate growth for innovative companies.
This private equity firm has a diverse portfolio with direct investments in unlisted companies under the technology, sciences, manufacturing, electronics & semiconductor, marine services and alternative energy sectors.
27. Tembusu Partners
Tembusu Partners invests in growth-stage companies that exhibit high-return potential for both their investors and investee partners. With its main headquarters in Singapore, they service markets within Asia, particularly China, India and Southeast Asia.
28. Adam Street Partners
Founded in 1972, Adam Street Partners is a private equity investment firm with investments in over 30 countries worldwide. Their humble beginning started with a single office in Chicago and has since then expanded to five other global locations, including Singapore. They managed a total asset of US$26 billion.
29. The Carlyl Group
The Carlyl Asia team is actively involved in buyouts, privatizations, minority investments in Asia (generally excluding Japan). Their investments involve up to US$25 million in early-stage startups.
30. Grove International Partners
Grove International Partners uses the private equity approach when investing in real-estate related companies. While they don’t directly invest in real estate, they acquire or develop investment platforms that invests in real estate and real estate-related assets.
They are very particular with their chosen investments, preferring to commit on a small number of platforms in selected markets globally.
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