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when it comes to vcs and deep tech

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We attended Innovfest Unbound last week at Marina Bay Sands, which bought together more than 15,000 attendees across the tech sector. One of the areas of focus was on deep tech – startups based on substantial scientific or engineering breakthroughs – which is a sentiment we’ve seen reflected in the increased levels of financing in this space (see our blog on other investment trends we’ve seen in 2019). We dropped by ‘The Investor Advantage’, a panel session populated with several regional VCs as well as government-funded firm SGInnovate. Here are their takeaways on the deep tech ecosystem in Singapore:

  • Singapore has great potential to be a global leader in this space: Although Israel gets a lot of limelight as a hub for deep tech because of their military and engineering background, Singapore has to potential to also be at the forefront. Singapore has the ability to harness both human and capital resources like few other countries, and with the efforts of government-owned SGInnovate and other government efforts, is likely to push the country forward in this space.
  • Startups need a go-to-market strategy before you approach VCs: Across the board the VCs looked to see a game plan for commercialisation before they invest. If a company is pre-revenue and pre-commercialisation, SGInnovate is a better organisation to turn to for support, as its focus is on the technical innovation itself, developing cutting and bleeding edge technology.
  • You can’t just stay a technical founder: Domain experience is a given where many scientists are launching their solution after or in conjunction with their post-graduate studies. Commercial nous is very useful in a sea of technical founders with no commercial experience. Even technical founders need to build storytelling capability.
  • You need to know the market: Founders can often have tunnel vision about their solution, with insufficient knowledge about their direct competitors, substitutes, and alternatives. They need to understand the market risk – that is, understand why the market will choose their solution over its alternatives.

All in all, it was an excellent session moderated by Ka Kay Lum of Deal Street Asia, with some great insights from the panel:

  • Sae Min Ahn, Managing Partner – Rakuten Ventures,
  • Ro Charlz, Vice President – Vickers Venture Partners,
  • Sui Ling Cheah, Operating Partner – Wavemaker Partners,
  • Hsien-Hui Tong, Head, Venture Investing – SGInnovate.

Having been involved with many of the deep tech investments made by these venture capital firms, we’re excited as they are about the developments in this industry. We’ll continue to watch this space with great interest.

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