By Nayela Deeba
Nov. 17, 2016
Sidney Yee, Executive Vice President of A*START Central
With innovation being the centre of attention for both the public and private sector, being a startup may be enticing. However, being one doesn't come without challenges. One common challenge cited is finding the right investors to fuel the company's growth.
"[The Singapore] government has been so progressive in terms of providing funds for startups, especially when people mention they don't have money to start one. However, we also have to take into consideration, who [else] is willing to invest in those startups," said Sidney Yee, Executive Vice President of A*START Central.
Opened in March 2016 by Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL) - the commercialisation arm of Singapore's government science and research firm A*STAR - A*START Central is an innovation lab and tech incubator that supports and builds up Singapore's startup community.
Yee is no stranger to startups and is a serial entrepreneur - before joining ETPL, she has led and co-led fund-raising activities for biotech startups such as Vanda Pharma and Paradigm Therapeutics, which exited through initial public offering (IPO) and acquisition.
Based on her observations and experience, Yee stated that some investors are not ready to invest in early-stage technologies; they are only open to fund startups/innovations that have already raised money or made revenue. Yee thus asserted that it is vital for startups to find investors that share the same goals and expectations as them, and will support them even at the beginning stages.
The importance of a startup ecosystem
Having a strong startup ecosystem is also key to accelerate and support the growth of startups in Singapore. "Once we are able to have a community, we are able to bring together experiences - from different institutions, from different regions of the world - and put them on the same platform, and that will generate a critical mass of generative content. This platform brings together companies, startups, and entrepreneurs to have the same mindshare," said Yee.
Understanding this, A*START Central has taken upon itself to help kickstart the growth of the nascent medtech and biotech sectors, with the bigger goal of fostering a robust, sophisticated medtech and biotech community.
Yee explained in an interview with The Business Times in September that A*START Central is focusing on those two sectors as the private sector is less likely to invest in them due to the high costs and uncertainties involved.
Despite the uncertainties, McKinsey & Company forsees a huge potential in the medtech space in Asia Pacific. The research firm predicts that the region will be the second largest medtech market by 2020, surpassing the European Union. The market is forecasted to reach US$190 billion over the next decade, which potentially makes up a third of the global sales. According to McKinsey & Company, the growth will be fuelled by rising population, ageing society - as in the case of Japan - urbanisation, affordability and morbidity due to disease burden in the region.