Singapore is a well-known startup and financial hub that actively encourages entrepreneurship. Its startup-friendly policies include numerous business incentives and a range of incubation schemes. The National Research Foundation’s Early Stage Venture Fund, for instance, acts as a catalyst for the formation of funds investing in startups. Singapore’s attractive tax system, rigorous Intellectual Property protection, and Free Trade Zones regulations are some of the other factors that have encouraged numerous global entrepreneurs, including many of our clients, to choose Singapore as a jurisdiction for starting their ventures.
This newsletter covers recent regulatory updates, news about the fundraising activities of successful Singapore startups, the winners of certain acceleration and incubation programmes, important changes introduced by Singapore’s Budget 2021, and other business-related news that may be of interest to Singapore business leaders and investors.
Bot MD raises US$5 million for expansion into more Asian markets
Founded in 2018, Bot MD is a Singapore-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) clinical assistant platform that provides doctors with answers to their professional questions. It also allows hospitals and healthcare organisations to integrate their electronic medical records and hospital information systems within the single system.
On February 3, 2021, Bot MD announced it had closed a US$5 million Series A funding round led by Monk’s Hill Ventures. Existing and new investors such as SeaX, XA Network, and SGInnovate also participated in the round. Certain individuals such as healthcare professionals Yoh-Chie Lu and Jean-Luc Butel and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank injected funds as well.
As per a press note, the new funds will be used for Bot MD’s growth within the Asia Pacific region, with the expansion of its platform into Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India. The healthtech startup also plans to expand its design and engineering teams to develop new clinical applications and integrations for its platform.
TRIVE Ventures launches US$2 million venture philanthropy fund to support fresh entrepreneurs
Launched in 2015, TRIVE Ventures is a Singapore-based early-stage Venture Capital (VC) firm investing in data-driven tech companies in Southeast Asia. The firm has invested in 18 startups thus far. Among its notable investees are Agrimax, a Singaporean agritech startup focusing on increasing farm productivity; Park N Parcel, a Singapore-based logistics firm; and Coderschool, a Vietnam-based coding education company.
On February 15, 2020, TRIVE Ventures announced it had partnered with an undisclosed family foundation to co-launch a US$2 million venture philanthropy fund named the “Tenacious Founders Venture Philanthropy Fund.” The new fund aims to seek out Singapore-based entrepreneurs who have shown “tenacity” in running their ventures but are struggling to build a successful business due to a shortage of financial resources.
TRIVE will issue financial support of up to S$100,000 (US$75,000) to each successful applicant, in the form of a redeemable SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) note. The fund will not take equity in the business. Rather, recipients of the funds are encouraged to repay the sum upon being financially positive, with returned funds used to fund the next successful applicants.
Startups accepted into Business Innovations Generator Incubation Programme
The Business Innovations Generator (BIG) is an incubation programme offered by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the Singapore Management University (SMU).
In February 2021, the BIG unveiled the 23 new startups accepted into its first cohort for 2021.
The incubator will provide fresh ventures with financial support, mentorship, access to community events, master classes, the Greenhouse workspace, and credits from several corporate partners.
Being an equity-free and industry-agnostic incubator, BIG leans slightly towards digital and sustainable urban technologies. This is in line with IIE’s objective of nurturing future leaders to create a meaningful impact on Singapore society. The programme will run its next call for applications for pre-seed and seed-stage startups in July 2021 — for both SMU- and non-SMU affiliated startups.
The selected startups include Adonis Pacific — a platform incorporated to house Singapore-born brands that champion health and wellness; AllQuant — a private investment company providing hedge fund access to retail investors through online education, copy trading, and robo-advisory services; Altra Capital who provide investors with a centralised platform for the trading of alternative investments, and the other twenty promising startups.
Singapore startups joining Allens’s Legaltech Accelerator
Allens is an Australia-based law firm with offices in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.
On February 17, 2020, the firm announced the seven startups that have joined its legal tech accelerator, Auctus, of which two are from Southeast Asia. The firm received more than 120 applications for its eight-week virtual accelerator. The final seven were chosen from a shortlist of 15 applicants who presented their projects to a panel of judges.
The two startups from Singapore are inPact.ai, an enterprise that has developed an AI-powered software platform that turns contracts into structured and analysable data to uncover new business insights; and Avvoka, a company with offices in London and Singapore that implement document automation, negotiation, and analytics tools for in-house lawyers and law firms.
The winners will work with mentors and experts from Allens on their legal, growth, and innovation strategies, attend workshops, and receive feedback on their products from the firm. The successful startups will also have the opportunity to participate in facilitated strategic introductions to Allens’ networks.
Singapore’s Budget 2021: Key takeaways
In the national budget presented on February 16, 2021, the Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a slew of initiatives aimed at catalysing the growth of startups and SMEs in the country. In addition, he underlined that Singapore must deepen its position as a global-Asia node to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.
Below is a list of key initiatives announced in the budget that could impact the startup ecosystem in the city-state.
- Platforms to support corporate innovation efforts
The government will invest fresh funds in three platforms (Corporate Venture Launchpad, Open Innovation Platform, and Global Innovation Alliance) to help firms innovate, collaborate, and remain competitive. The increased support, in terms of capital and resources, will spur more companies to encourage cooperation within these organisations.
- Improved IP laws
The Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy 2030 is being developed to strengthen existing IP regulations in Singapore. Deep-tech ventures will be the biggest beneficiaries of this change as they can look to better commercialise and protect their innovative projects, creating a safety net for them to experiment with high-risk technologies and potentially create breakthroughs.
- Increased support for the deep-tech sector
About 500 fellowships will be launched under the National Research Foundation to improve deep-tech expertise in areas including cybersecurity, AI, and health tech. These fellows will be able to help various stakeholders in the startup ecosystem — from accelerators and VCs to deep-tech startups themselves — better succeed in the various deep-tech subsectors.
- Enhanced venture debt programme
To ensure high-growth startups have access to necessary capital, the venture debt programme will be extended and enhanced — with an increase in the cap on loan quantum support from S$5 million (US$3.8 million) to S$8 million (US$6 million). Under this scheme, the government also shares up to 70 percent of the risk on eligible loans with Participating Financial Institutions.
- Supporting the use of electrical vehicles (EVs)
Up to S$30 million (US$22.7 million) will be injected into EV-related businesses over the next five years, including projects aimed at improving the current charging network and narrowing the difference in cost between conventional and electric cars.
Billionaire Sergey Brin sets up family firm in Singapore
Nowadays Singapore is definitely becoming a hub for high-net-worth individuals looking to set up new branches of their family offices, thanks to numerous incentives and low taxes in the country. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has established his family firm, Bayshore Global Management in the city-state as well.
Brin co-founded Google with Larry Page in 1998 and is the world’s eighth-richest person, with a net worth of US$91.7 billion. Brin, who served as president of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced in December 2019 that he was stepping down from his day-to-day roles. However, the billionaire retains share in the company, and now plans to invest his personal funds through the Singapore family office.
Dell opens global innovation facility in Singapore
Dell Technologies Inc. is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Round Rock, Texas.
On February 22, 2021, the American tech giant officially launched a US$50 million (S$66 million) research and development centre in Singapore that will drive innovation in computing technology near where data is located. It is the company’s first such facility to be built outside the US.
Called Edge Computing, the new technology will take advantage of the roll-out of 5G mobile networks in the city-state. Such a system can involve computers or devices like sensors analysing data they collect before uploading selected information or results to a network, called the cloud, to be accessed by users in another location. Edge computing will become important in the future, especially for smart cities, as it can, among other things, make it cheaper to process reams of data where it is being collected and then upload the results.
Online Variable Capital Company Registration and Filing Portal now available
The new online Variable Capital Company (VCC) Registration and Filing Portal was launched in Singapore on February 1, 2021. VCC transactions, including applications for a VCC name and incorporation, are now available in the new system. The online portal also includes a directory search function for users to search for registered VCCs or their sub-funds.
Introduced in January 2020, the VCC is a new corporate structure for investment funds. You can find more information on the VCC.
Deposit Service Accounts service to end
As of October 1, 2021, ACRA will discontinue the Deposit Service Accounts (DSA) service, which is one of the payment options available for customers transacting with BizFile+ and ACRA iShop postals.
Customers can continue to use a wide range of payment options, including credit and debit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay, for their transactions on BizFile+ and ACRA iShop.
Current DSA holders are encouraged to onboard the available e-payment options and terminate their DSA before October 1, 2021. You are also welcome to find more information on the changes.
List of Reportable Jurisdictions for 2020 CRS reporting published
The Common Reporting Standard (CRS) is the single global standard for the collection, reporting, and exchange of financial account information on foreign tax residents. Under this standard, Singapore banks and other financial institutions collect and report to the Inland Revenue Authority (IRAS) financial account information on non-residents. In turn, IRAS exchanges this information with the participating foreign tax authorities of those non-residents. And at the same time, IRAS receives financial account information on Singapore residents from other participating countries’ tax authorities. This helps to ensure that Singapore residents with financial accounts in other countries are complying with Singapore tax law.
In February 2020, IRAS published the list of jurisdictions with which Singapore will exchange financial account information for 2020. Reporting Financial Institutions are to submit the 2020 CRS information to IRAS by May 31, 2021. You can see the full list of Reportable Jurisdictions.
If you are thinking about incorporating your Singapore company, please contact our CorporateServices.com team. We will be happy to assist you with executing your corporate plans and help you in operating your Singapore business.
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